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CAN IRAQ BE DETERRED FROM USING
WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION?
Michael T. Klemick
Thesis Advisor: Peter R. Lavoy
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1 3 . ABSTRACT (maximum 200 words)
It generally is assumed that the threat of a U.S. nuclear strike deterred the intentional use of chemical and biological
weapons by Iraq during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Evidence suggests that this assumption might be faulty, or at least
incomplete. The purpose of this thesis is to test the common wisdom about nuclear deterrence and Iraq's non-use of
chemical and biological weapons (CBW) during the Gulf War.
This thesis examines the use of conventional and nuclear deterrence by the United States and coalition allies during the
1991 Gulf War. It then looks beyond the alleged effects of nuclear deterrence and examines Iraq's development and past
use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The threat of nuclear retaliation only moderately influenced Iraq's decision to
refrain from CBW use during the Gulf War. Other factors such as inexecutable C 2 , logistical collapse, and dubious munition
reliability also mattered. The implications for the United States are that: (1) current nonproliferation regimes are insufficient
to prevent the continued buildup of WMD by Iraq; (2) nonproliferation policies must be supplemented by policies designed
to deter WMD use; and (3) asymmetrical conventional military force targeting Saddam Hussein's regime is required to deter
Iraq's use of WMD.
1 4. SUBJECT TERMS IRAQ, CHEMICAL WEAPONS, BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS, WEAPONS OF
MASS DESTRUCTION, UNSCOM, SADDAM HUSSEIN, PERSIAN GULF WAR, SCUD
MISSILES, UN INSPECTIONS
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CAN IRAQ BE DETERRED FROM USING WEAPONS OF MASS
Michael T. Klemick
Lieutenant, United States Navy
B.S., United States Naval Academy, 1989
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of the requirements for the degree of
MASTER OF ARTS IN NATIONAL SECURITY AFFAIRS
NAVAL POSTGRADUATE SCHOOL
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NAVAL POSTGRADUATE SCHOOI
MONTEREY CA 93943-5101
It generally is assumed that the threat of a U.S. nuclear strike deterred the
intentional use of chemical and biological weapons by Iraq during the 1991 Persian Gulf
War. Evidence suggests that this assumption might be faulty, or at least incomplete. The
purpose of this thesis is to test the common wisdom about nuclear deterrence and Iraq's
non-use of chemical and biological weapons (CBW) during the Gulf War.
This thesis examines the use of conventional and nuclear deterrence by the United
States and coalition allies during the 1991 Gulf War. It then looks beyond the alleged
effects of nuclear deterrence and examines Iraq's development and past use of weapons
of mass destruction (WMD). The threat of nuclear retaliation only moderately
influenced Iraq's decision to refrain from CBW use during the Gulf War. Other factors
such as inexecutable C , logistical collapse, and dubious munition reliability also
mattered. The implications for the United States are that: (1) current nonproliferation
regimes are insufficient to prevent the continued buildup of WMD by Iraq; (2)
nonproliferation policies must be supplemented by policies designed to deter WMD use;
and (3) asymmetrical conventional military force targeting Saddam Hussein's regime is
required to deter Iraq's use of WMD.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. DETERRING IRAQI WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION 1
A. IRAQ'S EMERGENCE AS A FORMIDABLE THREAT 1
B. CHALLENGES FACING THE UNITED STATES 3
C THESIS STRUCTURE AND OBJECTIVES 7
D. FINDINGS 11
H. IRAQI WMD CAPABILITIES AND CONDUCT 13
A. INTRODUCTION 13
B. TERMS AND DEFININTIONS 13
1. Weapons of Mass Destruction 13
2. Chemical Weapons 14
3. Blood Agents 14
4. Blister Agents 15
5. Incapacitating Agents 15
6. Psychochemicals 15
7. Nerve Agents 15
8. Unitary Technologies 16
9. Binary Technologies 16
10. Biological Agents 17
11. Biological Warfare 17
12. Toxins 17
13. Nuclear Weapons 17
C BACKGROUND ON IRAQ 18
1. Introduction 18
2. Iraq — A Twentieth Century State 18
3. The Iraqi Dictator 20
D. IRAQ'S WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION 23
1. The Nuclear Program 23
2. Chemical and Biological Weapons Program 25
a. Introduction 25
b. Chemical Weapons 28
c. Biological Weapons 31
3. Military Force Buildup 33
E. THE IRAN-IRAQ WAR: 1980-1988 37
1. Introduction 37
2. The Political and Economic Costs of the War 37
3. Iraq's Chemical and Biological Weapon Use 38
F. CONCLUSION 40
m. U.S. EFFORTS TO DETER IRAQ FROM USING WMD 43
A. U.S. ATTEMPTS AT COERCIVE DIPLOMACY 43
1. Introduction 43
2. The Pre-Crisis Period 44
3. The Reactive Crisis Phase 45
4. The Transition From Coercion to Threat of Force 46
5. Military Action Against Iraq 47
B. CONCLUSION 48
IV. WHY IRAQ DID NOT USE WMD IN THE GULF WAR 51
A. INTRODUCTION 51
B. IRAQI INCENTIVES TO DEVELOP AND USE CBW 51
1. Requirements of an Effective CBW Arsenal 51
a. Structure 51
b. Toxicity 52
c. Concentration 52
d. Persistency 53
e. Durability 53
C. FORMIDABLE CHARACTERISTICS OF BW 53
D. TACTICAL ADVANTAGES 54
E. TACTICAL DISADVANTAGES 56
F. REASONS FOR ADOPTING A CBW POLICY 57
G. POSSIBLE EXPLANATIONS FOR THE LACK OF IRAQI CBW 60
1. Introduction 60
2. Past Operational Effectiveness 60
3. Strategic Deterrence of Iraeli WMD 61
4. Regional Ambitions 62
5. Command and Control Problems 63
6. Logistical Shortcomings 63
7. Unacceptable Performance of CBW Munitions 63
H CONCLUSION 64
V. IRAQI WMD EFFORTS AFTER DESERT STORM AND IMPLICATIONS FOR
U.S. DEFENSE POLICY 67
A. INTRODUCTION 67
B. FUTURE WMD CAPABILITIES 68
1. Introduction 68
2. Current Stockpiles of Weapons 68
3. Emerging WMD Missile Technology 69
4. Future Chemical Weapon Capabilities 70
5. Future Biological Weapon Capabilities 72
C. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 74
INITIAL DISTRIBUTION LIST 83
The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) constitutes grave
challenges to U.S. national security interests. International arms control agreements are
limited and have proven to be insufficient to contain the spread of nuclear, chemical and
biological weapons. Most recently, the 1991 Gulf War with Iraq demonstrated that
chemical and biological weapons (CBW) could expose the vulnerabilities of U.S.
military ground forces. Additionally, WMD proliferation produces dangerous regional
security dilemmas. Even with intense nonproliferation efforts by the United States and
the international community, allied coalition forces had to face real and potentially even
more serious complications posed by Iraq's CBW arsenal. Lessons taken from the Gulf
War emphasize areas of particular concern for the military forces.
Imperfections in the nonproliferation regimes create opportunities for highly
motivated developing countries to acquire WMD. The number of states in possession of
CBW arsenals will increase. As Defense Secretary William Cohen said during his Senate
confirmation hearing in January 1997, "I believe the proliferation of weapons of mass
destruction presents the greatest threat that the world has ever known. We are finding
more and more countries who are acquiring technology-not only missile technology-and
are developing chemical weapons and biological weapons capabilities to be used in
theater and also on a long-range basis. So I think that is perhaps the greatest threat that
any of us will face in the coming years."
Two superpowers with well-defined military capabilities proved that nuclear
weapons could deter the use of nuclear weapons throughout the Cold War. Deterrence,
therefore, was a matter of dealing with a known enemy with known capabilities.
Determining the identity and potential military capability of new CBW arsenals is a
significantly more difficult problem. Departure from the traditional superpower
deterrence paradigm is necessary for the continued success of nonproliferation regimes.
In fact, the reliance on U.S. nuclear weapons to deter non-nuclear WMD threats defeats
international nonproliferation efforts. Countering CBW with nuclear weapons
legitimizes the existence of CBW and portrays them as a decisive political-military tool.
The case of Iraq represents the inherent dangers emanating from the inadequate
nonproliferation regime. The 1991 Gulf War and, more recently, conflicts with the
United Nations weapon inspectors, presented ambiguous security threats to the Gulf
Region. Research suggests that the United States contemplated issuing explicit nuclear
deterrence threats in 1991 but concluded that this course was too costly. As a result, U.S.
officials often hinted at "massive retaliation" but did not issue explicit threats of nuclear
retaliation should Iraq use CBW.
Foreign policy directed at containing Iraq must be based upon a realistic
understanding of the nature of the current regime. Saddam Hussein's regime appears to
be firmly entrenched. It is quite possible that this regime will survive well into the
twenty-first century. Therefore, the United States can expect continued revanchist
behavior as Iraq seeks hegemony in the Gulf. Current UN sanctions have little effect on
the leadership of Iraq. Given the current conditions, Iraq will not discontinue its pursuit
of WMD. The United States cannot completely stop the spread of WMD and related
materials as such. The findings of this thesis show that a more forceful, conventional
military approach is necessary to achieve success in deterring Iraqi aggression.
Present and future deterrence of Iraq's WMD must include the following three
concepts. First, the implementation of invasive nonproliferation measures are needed to
raise the costs to Iraq of its pursuit of WMD. Second, the United States ought to deploy
the conventional military capabilities required to destroy the power of the Iraqi regime in
the event that Iraq uses WMD. Third, it is also necessary to make it clear to the Iraqi
regime that it would not survive the use of WMD against U.S. territory, troops, or
friendly states. It is only through these measures that Iraq is likely to be deterred from
using WMD in the future.
I. DETERRING IRAQI WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION
We received a wake-up call with Saddam Hussein's use of
SCUD missiles during operation Desert Storm and the new
information on his ambitious nuclear, biological and chemical
weapons programs. The proliferation of these horrific
weapons presents a grave and urgent risk to the United States
and our citizens, allies and troops abroad. Reduction of this
risk is an absolute priority of the United States. 1
A. IRAQ'S EMERGENCE AS A FORMIDABLE THREAT
Chemical and biological warfare was a distinct possibility during the Gulf War.
The coalition of military forces, led by the United States, prepared for and defended
against this threat. Only recently did the Pentagon admit that troops were exposed to
chemical weapons on the battlefield. It now appears that inadvertent exposure occurred
when the allied coalition detonated a weapons bunker. The question that remains is why
the Iraqis refrained from conducting chemical and biological warfare (CBW) in the face
of overwhelming odds?
This thesis shows that the threat of nuclear weapons in itself might not have
deterred Iraq from using CBW. Evidence suggests that the widely accepted assumption
might be faulty, or at least incomplete. Other factors, internal to Iraq and related to the
tactical decision matrix, might have had as much, or more, of an effect on Iraq's CBW
behavior as did U.S. nuclear deterrence. One highly plausible, alternative explanation for
the lack of CBW use lies in Iraq's ability effectively to employ the weapons. I offer
evidence that Iraq's CBW arsenal capability, while advanced, was not robust enough to
1 William J. Perry, Proliferation: Threat and Response (Washington DC: U. S. Government Printing
Office, 1996), Hi.
inflict widespread damage on the allied coalition. Furthermore, even had such an arsenal
existed, Saddam Hussein might have lacked the command and control infrastructure
needed to carry out such an attack.
The conflict with Iraq is representative of the problems facing U.S. national
security in the aftermath of the Cold War. Strengthening and enforcing the international
nonproliferation regimes has become one of the six core U.S. national security
objectives. 2 This thesis provides guidance for future relations with Iraq and other states
possessing non-nuclear weapons of mass destruction (WMD) capabilities.
The conflict between Iraq and the allied coalition, led by the United States, leaves
several unanswered questions and dilemmas for U.S. policy makers. Concerned about
the possibility of a CBW attack, the United States and other nuclear-capable allies used
an ambiguous nuclear deterrence posture to dissuade Iraq from crossing the WMD
threshold. Why was Iraq, a non-nuclear country, considered to be worthy of nuclear
deterrence? What capability did it possess in its military arsenal that required such a
policy response? How did it arrive at this position of power and why did it threaten the
region? What were Iraq's motivations for such actions? Why was it willing to take on
the United States and its allies in the face of overwhelming odds? The answers to these
questions illustrate the dangers of relying on nuclear deterrence against non-nuclear
This conflict was very much unlike past conflicts. Iraq, without the benefit of a
superpower sponsor, threatened the regional security of the Middle East and the national
A National Security Strategy for a New Century (Washington DC. : The White House, May 1997), p. ii.
security interests of the United States. In response, the United States attempted first to
reach a political solution to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The Iraqi leadership turned
away all diplomatic initiatives. The next step for the United States was to seek a military
The United States realized early on that it had to maintain the delicate balance of
the Middle East while simultaneously securing its own national interests. The balance
could only be maintained through the formation of an allied coalition. Upsetting the
political balance among the Arab states would benefit neither the United States nor
Israel. Furthermore, it was essential to the U.S. for Iraq not to be occupied by Iran or any
other neighboring country seeking regional dominance. The United States needed a
consensus of world opinion, particularly within the Middle East, prior to taking action.
The task would be to punish criminal aggression while maintaining security guarantees
for the surrounding countries. One wrong step and the United States could have been
viewed as the aggressor. The implications of a perceived western hegemony over the
Arab States could prove to be politically and economically detrimental to the United
B. CHALLENGES FACING THE UNITED STATES
It generally is assumed that the threat of a nuclear strike deterred Iraq's use of
chemical and biological weapons. The following excerpt is taken from President George
Bush's address to the nation on 16 January 1991:
As I report to you, air attacks are under way against
military targets in Iraq.... I've told the American people
before that this will not be another Vietnam. And I repeat
this here tonight. Our troops will have the best possible
support in the entire world, and they will not be asked to
fight with one hand behind their back. 3
The message was clear: the full resources of the United States would be used in this
engagement, though not necessarily nuclear weapons.
As former Secretary of State James Baker stated in his memoirs, "...I purposely
left the impression that the use of chemical or biological agents by Iraq could invite
tactical nuclear retaliation." 4 The British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, promised
the full cooperation of her government and "was not ruling out any options" in the event
of a CBW strike by Iraq. 5
The political rhetoric surrounding the impending conflict suggested that nuclear
retaliation would follow Iraq's employment of CBW on the battlefield. Invoking the
nuclear deterrent option was a dangerous gamble by U.S. policy makers. Two liabilities
existed. First and foremost, the credibility of the United States and its nuclear program
was on the line. If that credibility was called into question, the President of the United
States had two stark choices: stand and deliver or back down. Crossing the nuclear
threshold meant legitimizing the use of nuclear weapons in a period when the United
States was working toward arms reduction efforts with the Russians and nuclear
nonproliferation for other countries.
The message sent to developing countries, as well as to established nuclear-
capable countries, would be that use of nuclear weapons is legitimate, which directly
3 Cited in Harry G. Summers, A Critical Analysis of the Gulf War (New York: Dell Publishing, 1992), p.
4 James A. Baker, III, The Politics of Diplomacy (New York: G.P. Putnam & Sons, 1995), p. 359.
5 Cited in Joseph S Nye, Jr. and Roger K. Smith, After the Storm: Lessons from The Gulf War (Lanham:
Madison Books, 1992), p. 303.
contradicts Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) edicts. What incentives would states
have to support the NPT and other international agreements if nuclear weapons were
used again by the United States? The action effectively undoing arms reduction trends
would come from the country leading the NPT effort. Nuclear weapons and related
technology therefore would be coveted by a multitude of nations.
Secondly, a more sinister implication of the U.S. playing the nuclear deterrent
option would be the justification of the possession and use of CBW. Developing
countries would perceive CBW as powerful and desirable weapons if they elicited
nuclear retaliation in the Gulf. This fact alone would inspire a resurgence in research and
development for CBW. Faced with perceived WMD requirements, many countries will
opt for the less costly and less time-consuming development of CBW to secure their
national interests. Nuclear retaliation against a chemical or biological attack would raise
the credibility of CBW as a viable political-military tool.
While many deny that the United States attempted to use nuclear deterrence in the
Gulf War, much can be said to the contrary. Statements by President Bush and Secretary
of State Baker left much to the imagination. Several official statements were
intentionally designed with calculated ambiguity. Tariq Aziz, Iraq's Foreign Minister,
was clearly shaken during a January 1991 meeting with Secretary Baker prior to the
hostilities. He evidently was convinced that the United Stated would respond with
nuclear weapons. 6 The United States had medium- and long-range nuclear bombers in
the theater. Nuclear carriers, cruisers, frigates and destroyers — all nuclear weapons-
6 Ibid., p. 359.
capable — were in the Persian Gulf. The extensive use of the Tomahawk cruise missile
further strengthened the threat. Conventional warheads could easily be replaced with
nuclear warheads on the Tomahawks. The capability to deliver nuclear weapons was
there. Two questions remained: (1) whether or not the Iraqis believed the United States
actually would use nuclear weapons; and (2) what conditions would prompt the United
States to use nuclear weapons. Finally, the United States never publicly dismissed the
possibility of using nuclear weapons in the conflict.
The ability of the United States to maintain strategic deterrence against the use of
WMD against U.S. territory, troops, or allies came perilously close to a credible
challenge in 1991. Countries watchful of the events unfolding in the Gulf War observed
the diplomatic response CBW received from the United States in 1991 . Intense political
debate and policy dilemmas resulted over the possibility of CBW use. Should the United
States respond with nuclear weapons or conventional forces? In 1997, the debate
continues. This thesis argues that the proper deterrent to CBW is asymmetrical
conventional force. Pursuing the nuclear deterrence is improper for two reasons. First,
countering CBW with nuclear weapons greatly enhances the attractiveness of CBW as
the "poor man's atomic bomb." Second, and more seriously, it challenges the nuclear
credibility of the United States. Unlike the nuclear threshold, the threshold for CBW has
been crossed many times. The likelihood of CBW use in the future is high. CNN
reported on 24 November 1997 that over twenty countries are now pursuing CBW
arsenals. Adopting a nuclear deterrent response to CBW would make the next challenge
to nuclear credibility simply a matter of time. Further complicating the deterrent
response question is the non-state actor terrorist use of CBW. Adopting a deterrent
policy, based on nuclear response, might actually encourage CBW use by non-state
actors. The threat of a nuclear attack against a small or unknown actor is not politically
or military credible.
Promoting an asymmetrical conventional response benefits the U.S. policy
makers in many ways. First, and foremost, it maintains the leadership of the United
States in the nonproliferation effort. Second, there is a variety platforms capable of
delivering a multi-layered response. The element of surprise and unpredictability
remains with the United States. Non-state actors would be less likely to achieve their
objectives if they could not accurately predict the response by the United States. Third,
the message is clear: conventional forces can deter CBW. The response will be
delivered overwhelmingly and from a stand-off range. The likelihood of subsequent
CBW counteroffensive attacks achieving success would be remote. Additionally, the
increased awareness of proliferation gaps (dual use technology, medical research,
economic incentives, etc.,) has inspired a resurgence in CBW protection technology.
Lastly, operating in a CBW environment while continuing to deliver asymmetrical
conventional retaliation subverts the intended effects of CBW.
C. THESIS STRUCTURE AND OBJECTIVES
This thesis tests the wisdom of claims about the effectiveness of nuclear
deterrence of CBW during the Gulf War. The argument developed here is that the Iraqi
decision to refrain from CBW during the Gulf War cannot be explained entirely as the
product of fear of nuclear retaliation. Furthermore, there is an obvious danger to policy
makers in relying upon the nuclear threat as a viable deterrent. If the nuclear deterrent is
challenged, and not met, then nuclear deterrence has failed. Nuclear deterrence is a
cornerstone of national security for the United States. The United States cannot afford a
credible challenge to nuclear doctrine without responding appropriately. This fact leaves
the policy makers with few plausible options when exercising nuclear deterrence. The
implications of such a failure would undermine the security of the United States and
those countries that rely upon U.S. security assurances.
The policy makers of the United States face numerous constraints when dealing
with Iraq. Presently, Iraq is not a nuclear power. Iraq possesses an extensive chemical
and biological weapons arsenal. Furthermore, the government has not terminated its
quest for nuclear capability and still maintains a large, indigenous knowledge base. The
unresolved question of what type of international response is appropriate for a CBW
strike continues to plague U.S. policy makers.
This thesis examines the methods of conventional and nuclear deterrence used by
the United States and its coalition allies. It looks beyond the alleged effects of nuclear
deterrence to examine Iraqi defense, policy and capabilities. Also included is a historical
analysis of Iraqi actions in similar past conflicts, when Iraq deliberately used CBW.
The second chapter examines the Iraqi development of CBW capabilities and
conduct through 1991. The focus on Iraqi capabilities and intentions prior to and during
the Gulf War challenges the deterrence theories presented in Chapter III.
7 As stated in Proliferation: Threat and Response, November 1997, "Iraq retains considerable expertise
(scientists); possibly hidden some documentation, infrastructure. [They] could manufacture fissile material
for a nuclear device in five or more years , if sanctions were lifted, or substantially reduced and considerable
assistance provided. They have ratified the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty but have not signed the
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty."
Chapter III details the efforts by the United States and its coalition allies to deter
Iraq from using CBW. Identifying the power of the Iraqi regime and understanding its
motivations shapes the deterrent threat delivered by the United States and coalition
forces. The deterrence strategy employed by the United States and its allies is contrasted
to the capabilities and intentions described in Chapter II, The Nonproliferation Treaty
(NPT), the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the Biological Weapons
Convention (BWC) are pivotal to understanding the policy constraints faced by U.S.
Chapter IV examines alternative explanations for why Iraq chose to refrain from
CBW use. Several internal factors such as command and control (C 2 ), logistical
disintegration and the deterioration of CBW munitions contributed to the tactical
decisions made by Saddam Hussein's dictatorial regime. The reliability of the CBW
munitions was a major concern for Iraq. Available data shows that the military
refinement of chemical agents was crude. Poor quality control contributed to an
extremely short shelf life of munitions, thereby reducing reliability.
Chapter V discusses Iraqi WMD efforts after the Gulf War and assesses the
implications for future U.S. defense policy. The oppressive regime, led by Saddam
Hussein, has survived despite six years of severe economic sanctions. The current
political discourse, via the UN, falls well short of the statutes of UN Security Council
Resolution 687, in force since 1991. The United States must support this course of
action, for obvious political reasons, but not rely on it exclusively to reduce the risk of
Iraqi CBW. Initiating a more aggressive deterrent policy ensures U.S. core security
objectives and reduces the risk of WMD proliferation. Iraq continues to resist the UN
ability to locate and destroy the WMD stockpiles and related technology. CBW research
and development continues despite violating the UN Security Council resolution
prohibiting Iraq from such action. Iraqi behavior evolves with the intent to evade U.S.
counterproliferation and ATBM efforts. The actions of the UN, while equitable, do not
meet American national security objectives. UN efforts do not counteract the efforts of
Iraqi leadership to eliminate vulnerabilities exposed in the Gulf War.
There are several implications for U.S. defense policy. According to Anthony
Cordesman the U.S. intelligence community estimates that Iraq will:
• Continue to develop WMD using massive efforts of concealment, denial and
• Continue to keep delivery methods covert or compartmentalized from other
forces. Actual weapons may often be held apart from the delivery systems by
• Develop increased and improved C 4 I/ BM reporting directly to leadership.
• Create crisis-driven weapon deployment, utilization and escalation devoid of
doctrine. This new method will rely upon the perception of the individual
field commander rather than chain of command.
• Show limited restraint in attacking civilian targets. The regime might risk
escalation if it is likely to lose power.
• Revert to proxy groups or unconventional means of delivery of WMD outside
the context of war. Attacks might be aimed at U.S. defense efforts within the
region, internal political opposition or regional peacekeeping forces.
• Use combinations of chemical and biological agents to confuse or defeat
CBW protection gear or immunizations.
• Perceive arms control as an extension of conflict and Western hegemony
instead of an essential security option. 8
The guidance provided by this discussion is applicable for policy concerning
similar, non-nuclear WMD proliferators.
8 Anthony H Cordesman and Ahmed S Hashim, Iraq: Sanctions and Beyond (Boulder: Westview Press,
1997), p. 337.
There are three major findings:
1 . Nuclear deterrence, alone, was not responsible for deterring Iraqi use of
2. Current nonproliferation regimes slow the acquisition process but are not
sufficient to prevent Iraqi WMD buildup.
3. Additional enforcement and deterrence efforts are required to counter
The major ramifications for U.S. policy are considerable. Current Administration
support of international nonproliferation treaties severely restricts nuclear deterrence
policy options. The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the Chemical Warfare
Convention (CWC), and the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) prohibit the
acquisition of weapons of mass destruction. Alluding to nuclear deterrence, directly or
indirectly, in a crisis eviscerates these international treaty regimes. Developing countries
seeking security assurances from the United States generally will not tolerate hypocrisy
in U.S. foreign policy. Threatening the use of WMD legitimizes their existence. The
incentives to disregard the nonproliferation regimes are too strong for developing
countries to ignore.
The Iraqi WMD program continues to flourish despite nonproliferation regimes
and UNSCOM inspections. Iraq refuses to cooperate fully with the UN Security Council
resolutions. The existence of Iraqi WMD continues to threaten U.S. security forces in the
northern and southern No-Fly zones in Iraq.
Iraq's covert procurement of WMD closely parallels that of other developing
nations with WMD ambitions. Closely monitoring Iraq will reveal the patterns of
exploitation in the nonproliferation regimes. Lessons learned from the Iraqi case study
can be applied to other WMD proliferators.
Finally, the United States ought to continue to uphold international
nonproliferation policies. Convincing other nations to give up or abandon WMD
procurement requires considerable U.S. leadership, but it also requires international
support. Great care must be taken for the United States not to appear duplicitous.
Failure to sustain international backing might create the appearance of U.S. hegemony in
the Middle East. Such a development would damage U.S. interests and might provide
Iraq, or other nations, further incentive to develop WMD arsenals.
H. IRAQI WMD CAPABILITIES AND CONDUCT
The purpose of this chapter is to describe the military strengths and
capabilities of the Iraqi military. The information presented is a chronological account of
a dictator's attempt to take a Third World country and mold it into a hegemonic regional
power. The known facts and available statistics are current up to the commencement of
the Persian Gulf War. This detailed discussion serves as background information for an
examination of the actions and intentions of the U.S. government presented in Chapter
B. TERMS AND DEFINITIONS
A basic familiarity with chemical and biological technology is essential in order
to comprehend the complex appeal of CBW to Iraq. The following definitions and terms
are employed throughout this thesis. 9
1. Weapons of Mass Destruction
A weapon of mass destruction is any weapon or device that is intended to cause,
or has the capability of causing, death or serious bodily injury to a significant number of
people through the release, dissemination, or impact of :
1 . Toxic or poisonous chemicals or their precursors:
2. a disease organism; or
3. radiation or radioactivity.
9 Defense Special Weapons Agency (DSWA), Weapons of Mass Destruction Terms Handbook (DSWA-
AR-40H 01 May 1997).
2. Chemical Weapons (CW)
Chemical weapons are those that produce their effects on a living target, man,
animal, or plant, by virtue of their toxic chemical properties. It is important to note that
chemical weapons need not be aimed specifically at men, but also can be directed at
crops. Anti-personnel chemical weapons have been in effective use since the First World
War. It is only with the advent of air power that anti-crop chemical weapons have been
seriously considered. The anti-personnel weapons can be placed in several arbitrary
1 . Blood and choking agents.
2. Blister (vesicant) agents.
3. Incapacitating agents.
5. Nerve agents.
3. Blood Agents
Blood agents are absorbed into the body primarily by breathing. They prevent the
normal utilization of oxygen by the cells and cause rapid damage to body tissues. Blood
agents such as hydrogen cyanide (AC) and cyanogen chloride (CK) are highly volatile
and in the gaseous state dissipate rapidly in the air. Because of their high volatility, these
agents are most effective when surprise can be achieved against troops who do not have
masks or who are poorly trained in mask discipline. In addition, blood agents are ideally
suited for use on terrain that the user hopes to occupy within a short time. Blood agents
rapidly degrade a mask filter's effectiveness. Therefore, these agents could also be used
to defeat a mask's protective capabilities when combined with other agents.
4. Blister Agents
Blister or vesicant agents are primarily used to cause medical casualties. These
agents might also be used to restrict use of terrain to slow movements, and to hamper use
of material and installations. Blister agents affect the eyes and lungs and blister the skin.
Sulfur mustard, nitrogen mustard and lewisite are examples of blister agents. Most blister
agents are insidious in action; there is little or no pain at the time of exposure, except
with lewisite which causes immediate pain on contact.
5. Incapacitating Agents
An incapacitating agent is any agent that produces physiological or mental
effects, or both, that might persist for hours or days after exposure, rendering individuals
incapable of concerted effort in the performance of their assigned duties. Complete
recovery of incapacitating agent casualties is expected without medical treatment.
A psychochemical is an agent that incapacitates by distorting the perceptions and
cognitive processes of the victim, such as Lysergic Acid Diethylamid, (LSD).
7. Nerve Agents
These are extremely toxic compounds that produce convulsions and rapid death
by inactivating an enzyme (acetylcholinesterase) essential for the normal transmission of
nerve impulses. All nerve agents belong chemically to the group of organophosphorous
compounds. They are stable and easily dispersed, are highly toxic, and have rapid effects
both when absorbed through the skin and via respiration. All nerve agents in pure state
are colorless liquids. Their volatility varies widely. Nerve agents can be manufactured
by means of fairly simple chemical techniques. The raw materials are inexpensive and
readily available. The most important nerve agents in CW arsenals are: tabun, sarin,
soman, cyclohexyl methylphophonofluoridate, and o-ethyl s-diisopropylaminomethyl
methylphophonothiolatte. Tabun, sarin and soman are known as G agents.
Exposure to low doses of a nerve agent are characterized by increased saliva
production, a running nose, and a feeling of increased pressure in the chest. The pupil
also becomes contracted which impairs night vision. Increased exposure or higher doses
produce pronounced muscular symptoms. Convulsions, paralysis, and loss of
consciousness are common results.
Nerve agents have an extremely rapid effect. If medical treatment is expected to
remedy the affliction, it must be administered immediately.
8. Unitary Technologies
Most chemical ammunition can be described as unitary which implies that it
contains one ready-to-use CW agent.
9. Binary Technologies
Binary technology implies that the final stage in the synthesis of the nerve agent is
moved from the factory into the warhead, which thus functions as a chemical reactor.
Two initial substances stored in separate containers are mixed and allowed to form the
nerve agent when the ammunition (bomb, projectile, grenade, etc.) is on its way toward
the target. Until the actual moment of use, the ammunition contains only relatively non-
toxic initial substances, called precursors. It is therefore considered to be safer to
manufacture, store, transport and destroy. Binary technology greatly extends the shelf
life of the munition.
10. Biological Agents
A microorganism that causes disease in man, plants, or animals or causes the
deterioration of material.
1 1. Biological Warfare (BW)
The use, for military or terrorist purposes, of living organisms or material derived
from them, which are intended to cause death or incapacitation in man, animals or plants.
Toxins are poisonous, non-living substances obtained from biological sources
which produce non-transmissible effects. Toxins can now be synthesized in the
laboratory and can therefore be regarded as either chemical or biological agents. It
should be appreciated that, as with chemical agents, toxins vary in persistency when
delivered. For instance, botulinum is non-persistent, whereas tricothecene mycotoxins
are extremely persistent. Toxins are also very difficult to detect. 10
13. Nuclear weapons
A device that releases nuclear energy in an explosive manner as the result of
nuclear chain reactions involving the fission or fusion, or both, of atomic nuclei. 11
10 John Hemsley, The Soviet Biochemical Threat to NATO: The Neglected Issue (London: Macmillan
Press, 1987), p. 125.
11 DSWA, Weapons of Mass Destruction Terms Handbook, p. 93.
C. BACKGROUND ON IRAQ
The following chronology provides insight into the actions and motivations of the
Iraqi government. There is a pressing urgency on the part of the leadership to take Iraq's
fledgling status and redefine it as a leader within the region. Underlying this pursuit is a
desperation few developing countries have experienced. Embracing WMD as a political
tool is a testament to the continued strife, insecurity, and impudent nature of Saddam
2. Iraq — A Twentieth Century State
Iraq is a twentieth-century state, having been created in 1921. At that time, the
Middle East was being redrawn by Britain and France after the First World War. The
country's population is not homogenous and includes numerous religious sects of Shi'a
and Sunni Muslims. The population also includes one non-Arab minority, the Kurds.
The assigned borders have been considered an injustice by the Iraqi ruling elite.
Bordered on six sides by countries with significantly differing interests, Iraq is
landlocked. The colonial powers, Britain and France, were careful not to give any state
in the newly designed Middle East an advantage that would allow it to become too
powerful. Iraq's boundaries, which were drawn upon European economic and political
considerations rather than demographics, created tumultuous undercurrents that would
plague the country. The diverse ethnic and religious makeup of Iraq fuels the continuous
social tension. The religious division is approximately 60 percent Shi'a Muslim and less
than 30 percent Sunni Muslim. 12 Currently, the Sunnis control the government.
12 Mussallam Ali Mussallam, The Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait (London: British Academic Press, 1996), p. 68.
Ethnically, the country is divided between Arabs and the non-Arab Kurds. More
recently, the Sunnis and the Kurds have established themselves as powerful political
forces within Iraq. The Kurdish problem affects domestic politics as well as foreign
The Kurdish people number between eight and eighteen million spread over five
countries- Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria, and parts of the former Soviet Union. 13 Politically,
the Kurds vehemently oppose Arab nationalism and Arab unity. In 1968, the Ba'ath
party seized power. The pro- Arab Ba'ath party despises the Kurds. In 1970, the Ba'ath
party, led by Saddam Hussein, reached an agreement with Kurdish nationalists to allow
for autonomous rule.
In subsequent years, the Ba'ath party solidified its political position and gained
complete control of the government. Powerful economic forces also favored the ruling
party in its drive for political consolidation. The nationalized oil industry enhanced and
secured the regime's hold on the country. Appeasement of the Kurds was no longer an
issue. Feeling slighted, the Kurds organized a resistance movement and allied
themselves with Iraq's neighbor and foe, Iran. Iran saw the political and economic
success of the Iraqi regime as a regional threat. The tension between the two countries
eventually would lead to war in 1980. The war would last eight years. It ended with the
acceptance of United Nations resolution 598 which officially terminated the hostilities.
Iraq, however, continued to wage war within its borders against the Kurds.
13 Ibid., p. 69.
While other developing countries have demonstrated a propensity for acquiring
WMD, only Iraq has been enthusiastic to use them. Iraq used chemical weapons on
numerous occasions against Iran beginning in 1983. Iran reported 45,000 killed or
injured by chemical weapons. 14 In 1987-88, Iraqi aircraft dropped chemical weapons on
Kurdish villages in northern Iraq. In the city of Halabjah, it was reported that 5,000 men,
women, and children perished. 15
The financial impact of the Iran-Iraq war was immense. Many analysts saw Iraq
ceasing its belligerence and returning to the pre- 1980 status quo. Unfortunately, this did
not happen. Seeking retribution and in order to reassert Iraq as the Middle East's premier
power, Hussein focused his attention outside his borders. He meddled in the Lebanese
civil war, threatened neighboring countries, and exacerbated the already intense Arab-
Israeli conflict. The intent was to focus the attention of a militant Arab coalition against
the United States and Israel. For Hussein, military force is preferable to diplomatic
discourse when it comes to foreign policy. These delusions of Middle Eastern leadership
led him to plan an invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
3. The Iraqi Dictator
The actions of the Iraqi leadership and military are demonstrative and extreme, to
say the least. Jerrold Post attributes this to Hussein's submersion in the Ba'athist
ideology. 16 In short, Ba'athists believe that Pan-Arab unity is only achieved under a
single, strong leader and by expelling all outsiders. This line of reasoning is what
14 CNN: War in the Gulf (Atlanta: Turner Publishing Co., 1991), p. 47.
15 Ibid., p. 47.
16 A Special Report: The Gulf Crisis, Finding a Peaceful Solution (Washington DC: United States
Institute of Peace, 1990), p. 8.
Hussein has used to vindicate his actions. Post states, "...in his mind, the goals of
Saddam and Iraq are indistinguishable."
Post goes on to add, "Although Saddam is not crazy, he is often out of touch with
political reality.... There are two main reasons: he is culturally quite narrow..., [and] he is
surrounded by sycophants." To label him a madman would be irresponsible. This
tends to encourage policy makers to see him as unpredictable and not understandable. A
distinction must be made between being dangerous and being irrational. He is, without a
doubt, dangerous. Four psychological characteristics Hussein exhibits are: unbounded
self-exaltation; unconstrained aggression; absence of conscience; and a paranoid
outlook. 18 Even so, Hussein sees himself as a great world leader and not a martyr. He
will back off if there is a way out.
For over twenty-eight years, Saddam Hussein has been at the forefront of Iraqi
politics. Eleven of those years he was second in command. From 1978 to the present, he
has been the undisputed leader. He entered his first major war within two years of
assuming the presidency. Two years following the conclusion of the Iran-Iraq war, he
invaded Kuwait. During his reign, Iraq has seen only two years of peace. 19 Hussein's
genius, and the thing that keeps him in power even after the crushing defeat of 1991, is
his cautious proficiency to seek out potential rivals and eliminate them prior to any
serious challenge to his rule. His iron-fisted leadership and repressive measures have
created stability within the country. Yet, outside the borders, he has created much
suspicion and concern. Iraq is viewed as a regional liability within the Middle East.
17 Ibid., p. 9.
19 Mussallam, The Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait, p. 33.
While most of the command decisions of Iraqi leadership appear to be irrational
by Western standards, they are merely a product of Ba'athist indoctrination. Evidence
suggests that Hussein's essence developed long before the Gulf War. This is an
important point to comprehend if one hopes to understand the short-term goals and
strategic vision of Hussein. The application of Western standards or the practice of
"mirror imaging" have no place in an understanding of the Iraqi leader's psyche. The
answer lies in the core of the Ba'athist ideology.
Formed in 1947, the Ba'ath party, or the Party of Arab Renaissance, called for the
creation of a solitary Arab political alliance stretching from North Africa to Iran.
Emerging in response to the creation of Israel, the party's rhetoric won the hearts and
minds of many young Iraqis. For one young, impressionable Iraqi, Saddam Hussein,
Israel's existence signified a divided Arab world and "the takeover of Palestine by
international Zionism." 20 Another facet of the Ba'athist explanation for the Arab world's
fragmentation is British colonialism. Both political rhetoric and ideological writings
point to the ill effects of British domination throughout the region and the existence of
dogmatic, pro-British regimes. The struggle soon went beyond the liberation of Palestine
to the liberation of the entire Arab world.
The early Ba'athists believed that their prayers would be answered in the form of
a man destined to rule the Arab world. He would rid the Middle East of the Jews and the
colonial powers. This extraordinary leader's core beliefs would be based upon racial
20 Kenneth R Timmerman, The Death Lobby (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1991), p. 2.
D. IRAQ'S WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION
1. The Nuclear Program
Iraq signed the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968. In retrospect, the
NPT mattered little to the Iraqis. It is widely believed that Iraqi efforts to obtain
plutonium originated in the early 1970s. They concentrated primarily on acquiring
overseas technology. In 1976 Iraq obtained its first test reactor from France, the
Tammuz-1 or Osirak reactor. It later would be destroyed in an Israeli preemptive strike
in 1981. Unofficial French estimates report the plutonium production of the Osirak
reactor to be approximately four kilograms per year. Israeli estimates were four times as
high. Iraq maintained it would have yielded a maximum of two kilograms per year. 21
Despite the setback of the Osirak bombing, Iraq dedicated its efforts toward two
objectives: (1) replacing the lost Osirak reactor with a heavy water reactor or enriched
uranium reactor and associated plutonium separation capability; and (2) developing
uranium enrichment production capability.
By 1985 Iraq had realized the full impact of the NPT and could not purchase a
replacement reactor for the Tammuz-1 . A covert project to build a heavy water, natural
uranium reactor was launched to counter nonproliferation efforts. Iraq continued efforts
on learning how to separate plutonium from irradiated fuel. However, the research and
development emphasis had now shifted toward the uranium enrichment processes. The
father of the Iraqi enrichment program, Dr. JafTar D. Jaffar, stated that the bombing of
the Osirak reactor was, in fact, a catalyst for the highly-enriched uranium (HEU)
21 David Albright, Frans Berkhout and William Walker, Plutonium and Highly Enriched Uranium 1996
World Inventories, Capabilities, and Policies (New York; Oxford University Press, 1996), pp. 313-14
22 Ibid., p. 314.
program. In late 1981 Iraqi nuclear physicists concluded that electromagnetic isotope
separation (EMIS) was the primary means of separation and that gaseous diffusion would
be the next appropriate method.
Iraq's formal decision to build a nuclear weapon occurred in late 1987.
Immediately prior to this decision, Iraq contracted with a Yugoslavian firm to build its
first EMIS production facility. 24
By 1988, it was apparent to the Iraqi leadership that the results of the nuclear
program fell short of expectations. Gaseous diffusion techniques gave way to chemical
enrichment. Plans to build a gaseous diffusion facility were in place and the planned
commencement for operations was scheduled for 1990. Repeated delays and technical
problems interfered with the project.
Numerous forays into the gas-centrifuge techniques began after a
interdepartmental rivalry between Jaffar and the head of the gaseous diffusion effort. 26
The result of the clash was a unification of the scientific community and a consolidation
of efforts into obtaining centrifuge knowledge and capability. Extensive support and
assistance was obtained from overseas. The assistance was so great that inspectors from
the International Atomic Agency (IAEA) and United Nations Security Council to the UN
Special Commission (UNSCOM) have cited the assistance as the key to the centrifuge
program. By 1991, prior to the invasion of Kuwait, the centrifuge program was still two
to three years from producing weapon-grade uranium.
25 Ibid., p. 315.
At the time of the Kuwait invasion, Iraq did not possess the indigenous capability
to produce HEU. 27 The Iraqi leadership made the decision in mid-August 1990 to divert
its stock of HEU to construct a nuclear weapon in a crash program. The plan was to
extract the HEU, further enrich it and construct the weapon in a six-month period. Again
technical difficulties and delays prohibited this from happening. The Allied bombing
campaign sealed the fate of this program in January 1991. Estimates of the success of
the crash program, had it been uninterrupted by the bombing, place the date of
completion near the end of 1991.
2. Chemical and Biological Weapons Program
Take him unaware by surprise attacks where he is
unprepared. Hit him suddenly with shock troops.
Sun Tzu, The Art of War 2 *
The importance of chemical and biological weapons has long been
understood. Historical acceptance of chemical and biological weapons is well
documented among developing nations throughout history. The concepts used in CBW
are certainly not new by any stretch of the imagination. The use of poisons, choking
agents, intoxicating fumes and primitive bacteriological warfare is conspicuous in
documented history. Poisoned arrows have been in use throughout the ancient world.
Certain peoples of varying countries still use them today. The use of poisoned arrows is
ongoing in remote parts of India, China, Africa, South America, New Guinea, and
27 Ibid, p. 317.
28 Michael I. Handel, Masters of War: Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, andJomini (London: Frank Cass, 1992). p.
Australia. 29 The chemicals used are a derivative of aconite, a highly toxic poison
inflicting paralysis of the respiratory system; strophanthus, which acts on the
cardiopulmonary system; or curare, which causes convulsions. Along with the evolution
of firearms, there have been many attempts to produce poison ammunition. Fortunately,
for those lucky enough to survive the initial bullet wound(s), this process has proven to
be generally ineffective. The chemical compounds are destroyed in the explosion of the
Throughout the history of warfare, the employment of CBW has been regarded as
a force multiplier. It has the capacity to provide the battle-winning element. Naturally, it
follows that the user will view CBW as a legitimate weapon of war to achieve decisive
victory over the enemy. Remarkably, the moral and legal objections to the use have been
short-lived. This most certainly was the case in the First World War. The major
belligerents accepted and expanded the use of chemical weapons as legitimate weapons
Biological warfare, often referred to as bacteriological warfare, achieves its
effects through dispersal of biological or pathogenic agents. Unlike chemical weapons,
biological weapons cause disease. Moreover, chemical weapons kill through direct
contact with the victims. Biological weapons can and usually do cause epidemics far
beyond the original target. Another stark contrast to chemical weapons is the BWs
ability to remain active for decades, as in the case of anthrax. The typology of potential
disease as a result of BW are represented in the following table: 30
Hemsley, The Soviet Biochemical Threat to NATO, p. 1
Ibid., pp. 123-24.
Table 2. 1 Typology of Potential Biological Warfare Diseases
Brucellosis Ebola fever
Cholera Marburg fever
Melioidosis Lassa fever
Plague (pneumonic) Smallpox
Plague (bubonic) Venezuelan equine encephalitis
Tularaemia Various potential arboviruses
Q - fever Coccidioidomycosis
Rocky Mountain spotted fever Histoplasmosis
Epidemic typhus Nocardiosis
The most commonly developed BW are from the toxin class. Toxins are
poisonous, non-living substances obtained from biological sources, which produce non-
transmissible effects. Toxins can now be synthesized in the laboratory and can therefore
be regarded as either chemical or biological agents. It should be appreciated that, as with
chemical agents, toxins vary in persistency when delivered. For instance, botulinium is
non-persistent, whereas tricothecene mycotoxins are extremely persistent. 31
Toxins are also very difficult to detect. This difficulty in detection offers a
attractive property and greatly magnifies this form of BW agent as a potential weapon.
Simply put, it would be hard to substantiate the use of this kind of BW because it causes
diseases that occur naturally. It does not have to be employed necessarily in a military
fashion. That is, no ballistic missile launches or aerial bombing campaigns need to occur
A discreet poisoning of the main water supplies or domestic food sources is just as
31 Ibid., pl25
effective and less dramatic. It is this plausible deniability that creates the convincing
argument. Table 2.2 lists commonly developed biological toxins. 32
Table 2.2 Some Biological Warfare Toxins
80% lethal w/out
med care. 25% lethal
mycotoxin (yellow rain)
fusaria species of fungi
nausea, vomiting, blood
filled blisters on skin,
lethal in 5% of cases.
weakness, paralysis of
lethal, fast acting when
absorbed into cuts
castor oil, plant seeds
abdominal pain, fever,
burning in throat
lethal w/ high doses
b. Chemical Weapons
The utility of such weapons makes the choice for the Iraqi government
easy. The amount of technological expertise to gain an adequate arsenal is minimal
compared to nuclear technology. The ease and cost of production also make CW a
logical forerunner as an alternative for nuclear weapons. Until recently, the amount of
attention devoted to tracking C W has been almost nonexistent. Compared with tracking
fissile materials and launching mechanisms, CW is able to remain obscured in the
definitions of dual use materials. This is another added benefit of having CW as an
alternative to nuclear weapons. Originally, Iraq developed CW to coincide with its
Ibid., p. 125.
nuclear doctrine. Iraqi tactics, no doubt, were influenced by the Soviet doctrine which
called for the simultaneous use of CW along with nuclear weapons. For Saddam Hussein
CW production was the rational choice for a decisive battlefield weapon while the
nuclear program was under development. It aided in the attainment of his regional power
aspirations and kept the Iranians at bay during the eight-year war.
Iraq's indigenous capability to produce chemical weapons began in 1974.
Refined production of the chemical weapons arsenal began in the early 1980s at the
Muthanna State Establishment near Samarra, Iraq. The production efforts were
concentrated in two broad areas: blister agents and nerve agents.
Nuclear arsenal production problems accelerated the production of CW and
placed greater emphasis in developing it into a more robust arsenal. Iraq has the largest
chemical weapons production capability in the Third World. 33 Prior to the
commencement of hostilities in 1991, Iraq produced over a thousand tons of agents
annually. This figure was arrived at by extrapolating estimates of chemical production
for 1985 (10 tons per month), 1986 (50 tons per month), and 1988 (82 tons per month). 34
Additionally, Iraq maintains several underground storage facilities dispersed
throughout the country. 35 The chemical weapons primarily include mustard-type blister
agents and the nerve agents sarin, cyclosarin, VX, and tabun. 36 These nerve agents are
extremely lethal in small doses.
33 Mike Eisenstadt, The Sword of the Arabs: Iraq's Strategic Weapons, (Washington, DC: The Washington
Institute, 1990), p. 5.
35 Seymor M. Hersh, "U.S. Aids Say Iraqis Made Use of a Nerve Gas," The New York Times, 30 March
1984, pp. Al, A6.
36 Eisenstadt, The Sword of the Arabs, p. 5.
From the inception of the CW program up to the Gulf War, Iraq made tremendous
strides in its developmental capabilities. Iraq has developed a highly refined mustard gas
in liquid form with a long shelf-life. Unconventional means of CW dissemination have
also been pursued. Evidence suggest that Iraq has developed a process to turn the liquid
mustard gas into a dry form that is later mixed with a talcum-like powder substance.
Referred to as "dusty mustard," the chemical agent adheres to the powder medium and
can then be dispersed via a respiring aerosol. This technique exponentially increases the
inhalation toxicity. 37 The Defense Intelligence Agency has published a declassified
intelligence report on "dusty mustard," which states: "The agent dusty mustard, and dusty
agents in general, are disseminated in a dry aerosol and may be difficult to detect. The
aerosol filter in a protective-mask canister will stop a dusty agent and protect the wearer,
but unless the agent can be readily detected, the potential victim is unlikely to be
Further evidence suggests that the Soviet doctrine and technology aided the Iraqis
in the production of advanced chemical weapons. Numerous detections of lewisite, a
chemical the Soviets often mixed with mustard, occurred during the Gulf War.
Iraq used chemical weapons against Iran extensively during the eight-year
conflict. Following the conclusion of the Iran-Iraq war, Iraq immediately began work to
improve the arsenal. Production efforts were introduced to improve the stability of its
37 U.S. Army, Field Manual 3-3: Chemical and Biological Contamination Avoidance (Washington, DC:
Headquarters, Department of the Army, 16 November 1992), p. 3-1.
,8 Defense Intelligence Agency, "Iraq : Chemical and Biological Capabilities as of August J 990, " 21
August 1990, GulfLINK document no. 73876681.
9 Timothy McCarthy and Jonathan B. Tucker, "Saddam's Strategic Arsenal: CBW and Missiles in the Gulf
War," unpublished paper (Monterey: Monterey Institute of International Studies, 1997), p. 4.
unitary nerve agents and transform the weapon into a crude binary round. The precursors
of sarin and cyclosarin (a related nerve agent of comparative lower volatility) were
combined in bombs or missile warheads. 40
UNSCOM data documents stockpiled binary munitions prior to the Gulf War "in
quantities well beyond prototype levels." 41 The binary munitions were weaponized as
artillery shells, 122mm rockets, and aerial bombs.
c. Biological Weapons
Iraq's initial foray into the field of biological weapons occurred in the
mid-1970s but was soon aborted. Revived in 1985, the Muthanna State Establishment
housed only a few biologists. In 1987, the BW program was transferred to a laboratory
complex at Al Salman and was overseen by the Forensic Research Department of the
Technical Research Department. This facility reported directly to the Iraqi Military
Industrialization Corporation and was associated with the Iraqi security services.
Presumably, this move was initiated to eliminate any interference with the higher-
priority, chemical weapons program.
By 1988 scaled-up research was launched on botulinium toxin and anthrax.
Accordingly, a new biological facility appeared at Al Hakam. 4 " The scheme of this
facility was reproduced largely from the blueprints of the chemical weapons facility at
Muthanna. The buildings were well separated with research areas segregated from the
production areas. Al Hakam would serve as a research and development, production and
40 Ibid., p. 5.
42 The United Nations and the Iraq-Kuwait Conflict J 990- 1996 (New York: United Nations Department of
Public Information, 1996), p. 783.
storage facility for biological weapons. However, the filling of munitions would not take
place at this facility. Two 1,850-liter and seven 1,480-liter fermenters were transferred
from the Veterinary Research Laboratories. Another 450-liter fermenter from a smaller
biological weapons production plant, at Taji, was transferred to Al Hakam. 43
Later in 1988 research began on several additional biological agents. Production
characteristics and destructive capabilities were the primary discriminators which led the
Iraqi scientific community to concentrate on production of aflatoxin, wheat smut, ricin
hemorrhagic conjunctivitis, a rotavirus, and camel pox virus. 44 Aflatoxin is a toxin
commonly associated with fungal-contaminated food grains. Ingestion of grain products
contaminated with aflatoxin results in carcinogenic disorders. Wheat smut causes a
black fungal growth on food grains rendering them useless and inedible. Ricin is a
protein toxin derived from castor bean plants that is highly lethal to humans and animals.
When inhaled, ricin creates a violent breakdown of lung tissue resulting in hemorrhagic
pneumonia and death. Hemorrhagic conjunctivitis is an acute disease that causes
extreme pain and temporary blindness. Rotavirus causes acute diarrhea leading to
dehydration and possible death. Camel pox causes fever and skin rash in camels;
infections in humans are rare. Very little work needed to be done on these viruses to
produce them in mass quantities.
Initial testing of botulinium toxin and anthrax in aerial bombs occurred in March
1988. Production of botulinium toxin and anthrax for weaponization began in early
1989. Additional weaponization testing occurred in November 1989 using 122 mm
44 Ibid., p. 784
rockets. Trials of R400 aerial bombs using botulinium toxin and aflatoxin followed in
August 1990. Gross production is estimated to be about 6,000 liters of botulinium toxin
and 8,425 liters of anthrax at Al Hakam in 1990. 45
Iraq drastically intensified its biological weapons production after the invasion of
Kuwait on 2 August 1990. Emphasis was placed on production and weaponization of
anthrax and botulinum toxin. Six veterinary foot and mouth disease plants were
converted into biological weapons production facilities. From November 1990 to
January 1991, 5,400 liters of concentrated toxin had been produced. Subsequent
requirements of massive anthrax quantities required the modification of the botulinium
toxin facility at Al-Hakam, in August 1990. The conversion resulted in the production of
340 liters of anthrax. 46
3. Military Force Buildup
The potential threat of the Iraqi military can only be fully appreciated through an
examination of the time period preceding the Gulf War. It is important to note two
concepts concerning the military buildup. First, the intelligence community largely
overlooked Iraq's acquisitions and intentions while primarily focusing its assets upon
Iran. 47 Second, accelerated advances in technology and types of weapons occurred in a
very short period. This is partly due to weapons proliferation and gaps in
nonproliferation efforts. In a 25-year period, from the mid-1970s to the Gulf War, Iraq
progressed from importing WMD technology and foreign personnel to the indigenous
46 Ibid., p. 785.
47 Sally Mullen, Senior Intelligence Analyst, U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. Lecture, 19
August 1997, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California.
production and weaponization of WMD. Underlying reasons for the transition stem from
economic incentives. The attractiveness of arms sales and related technology is far too
great for any nation to ignore.
During the period of 1984 to 1988, the five permanent members of the United
Nations Security Council were the top five exporters to the Middle East. Their sales,
alone, accounted for seventy-five percent of all arms sold to the region. The Middle East
accounted for thirty-six percent of all world arms imports during this period. 48
48 U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers, Annual,
Figure 2. 3 Top Five Arms Exporters and Importers to the Middle East, 1984-1988
The numbers for Iraq continued to climb and peaked just prior to the
commencement of hostilities in 1991. Its military buildup was ominous compared to that
of any other country in the region. This buildup is reflected by the data given in Table
Table 2.4 Military Buildup in the Middle East
United Arab Emirates
Source: United States Naval Institute Military Database (1991).
By mid- January 1991, it was estimated that the number of Iraqi troops available for
combat was in excess of one and a half million, including reserves. Assuming the
estimates were accurate, the Iraqi army was the fourth largest army in the world behind
the Soviet Union, China and the United States respectively. The figures, estimated just
prior to the Gulf War, reflect Iraq's strongest military posture in the history of the
country. Examining the military arsenal from a historical perspective, one finds that the
procurement timeline is greatly compressed compared that of to similar developing
countries. That sense of urgency is still present today.
E. THE IRAN-IRAQ WAR: 1980-1988
The war between Iran and Iraq witnessed some of the largest-scale fighting since
the Second World War. The conflict included naval forces, air forces, terrorism, and
most disturbingly, chemical warfare. A conflict of this scale and complexity serves as a
warning of potential costs of unchecked proliferation. The war also represented a
constant hazard that either country could emerge as the predominant power in the Middle
East. The ramifications would have severely impacted U.S. national interests within the
region. The same implications carry forward to present day. If Iraq succeeds in
obtaining a superior WMD capability, the balance of power among the Gulf States will
2. The Political and Economic Cost of the War
The actual cost, human and financial, of the eight-year Iran-Iraq war is unknown.
However, the political and economic expenditure of both countries was colossal.
Repercussions of the eight-year war significantly influenced the ideological restructuring
of Iraq. The present political and military motivations are most definitely a byproduct of
the Iran-Iraq war. To put the catastrophic loss into perspective, it is comparable to
Vietnam or Korea in opportunity costs. The next table illustrates key figures taken from
an unclassified CIA working estimate. 49
49 Cited in Anthony H. Cordesman, The Lessons of Modem War Volume II: The Iran-Iraq War (Boulder:
Westview Press, 1989), p. 3.
Table 2.5 Estimates of the Costs of the Iran-Iraq War: 1980-1988
A. Human Costs (Number of Lives)
Prisoners of War
B. Economic costs (Marginal Cost in $ Billions)
Compensation to Families
Repairs to War-Damaged Facilities
Table 2.5 does not reflect the opportunity costs of failing to fund economic
development and normal economic operations. Baghdad never released a statement on
the estimates of war costs. However, the damage sustained was significantly less than
that of Iran.
3. Iraq's Chemical and Biological Weapon Use
Iraq is a signatory to both the 1925 Geneva Protocol and the Biological Warfare
Convention of 1972. Despite this, Iraq's interest in obtaining CBW dates back to the
mid-1960s. Iraq actively sought chemical weapons from Egypt and the Soviet Union
following Egypt's use of CW in the Yemens. The foundation of the Iraqi CW arsenal
started with Egypt and the USSR. Shortly after acquiring small numbers of weapons,
Iraq pursued and obtained a large-scale domestic production capacity courtesy of the
American company Pfaudler, of Rochester, New York. 50 But, the Iraqi production goals
and short timeline conflicted with the services Pfaudler was willing to offer. As a result
of the contractual difficulties, Iraq broke off negotiations and looked overseas to the
British. The British company Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI), unlike Pfaudler, was
well acquainted with the British government's list of export-controlled items. It
immediately broke off contact with the Iraqis. Undaunted, Iraq solicited and received
assistance from West German, Swiss, Dutch, Belgian and Italian firms. It is also
believed that it purchased technical assistance from the West German firm Fritz
The short time span from conceptualizing CBW in the mid-1960s to deliberate
use in the field in 1982 is remarkable. Vast economic resources combined with a
determined political will delivered WMD to a Third World country in less than 20 years.
More importantly, the Iraqi leadership did not hesitate to use its newly-acquired
technology in the field.
Iraqi use of CBW throughout the Iran-Iraq war is well documented. Strong
evidence suggests that Iraq used and field-tested several types of C W during the war.
David Goldberg, of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center, testified to the Special
Investigations Subcommittee of the Government Operations Committee, U.S. Senate, on
9 February 1989. He stated that control, incapacitating, blister, choking, blood, and nerve
agents were used in the conflict. 52 Iraq continued to use chemical weapons even after the
passage of UN resolution 598 officially ending the hostilities.
50 Ibid., p. 507.
51 Ibid., p. 509.
52 Ibid., p. 515.
To do evil a human being must first of all believe that what
he's doing is good...
Ideology —that is what gives devildoing its long-sought
justification and gives the evildoer the necessary steadfastness and
determination. That is the social theory which helps to make his
acts seem good instead of bad in his own and others' eyes, so that
he won't hear reproaches and curses but will receive praise and
-Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn
The evidence presented illustrates the level of determination and willingness on
the part of Iraq to accumulate WMD. Several factors appear to motivate the Iraqi
leadership. The primary motivation comes from Iraq's leader. The depraved and
indifferent dictator, as diagnosed by Post, has delusions of becoming the unifier of the
Middle East. Stability in the region means little to Hussein. The financial impact of the
Iran-Iraq war was immense. It was anticipated that Iraq would cease its belligerence and
return to the pre- 1980 status quo. Unfortunately, this did not happen. Seeking
retribution and in order to reassert Iraq as the Middle East's premier power, Hussein
focused his attention outside his borders. He meddled in the Lebanese civil war,
threatened neighboring countries, and exacerbated the already intense Arab Israeli
conflict. The intent was to ally Arab countries against the United States and Israel. For
Hussein, military force is preferable to diplomatic discourse when it comes to foreign
policy. It appears that, psychologically, Hussein feels most comfortable when operating
from a position of strength. Therefore, WMD affords him the upper hand when dealing
with Israel or the surrounding states. Fear and intimidation are the tools.
53 Cited in Leonard G. Horowitz, Emerging Viruses: Aids and Ebola (Rockport: Tetrahedron, 1997), p. i.
The successful use of CBW in the Iran-Iraq war convinced the Iraqi leadership of
their value as a "decisive weapon." Chemical weapons along with long range missiles,
according to Tariq Aziz, were tactically significant against ground troops. Additionally,
they served as an effective psychological terror weapons against civilian populations.
The lack of international condemnation over the use of CBW added legitimacy to
its use. Since Iraq was not rebuked in any way for its use of WMD, Hussein perceived
the lack of attention as vindication of its use.
Iraq has typically considered its CBW arsenal as a strategically significant tool to
balance Israel's nuclear arsenal. Tim McCarthy, a senior analyst at the Monterey
Institute for International Studies, explains that Iraq's deterrence posture is two-tiered.
The first objective is to deter Israeli air strikes on strategic targets within Iraq ( i.e.,
Osirak in 1981) Secondly, a CBW arsenal deters Israeli first-use of WMD against Iraq. 35
Ironically, the successful efforts of the nuclear nonproliferation regime provide
motivation for the procurement of CBW technology. Problems encountered in
developing the Iraqi nuclear arsenal accelerated the production of CBW and placed
greater emphasis in developing a more robust, alternative WMD arsenal. Iraq has the
largest chemical weapons production capability in the Third World. Prior to the
commencement of hostilities in 1991, Iraq produced over a thousand tons of agents
annually. This figure was arrived at by extrapolating estimates of chemical production
for 1985 (10 tons per month), 1986 (50 tons per month), and 1988 (82 tons per month). 56
54 McCarthy and Tucker, "Saddam's Strategic Arsenal," p. 18.
56 Eisenstadt, "The Sword of the Arabs," p. 5.
The continued pursuit of WMD and the refusal to cooperate with the UN
resolutions requiring the elimination of all Iraqi WMD further strengthen the conclusion
that Iraq is determined to maintain a WMD arsenal. This determination, aggressiveness,
and demonstrated willingness to use WMD directly affects future U.S. policy. What will
be the necessary course of action to deter or defend against Iraqi WMD? Chapter III
examines past U.S. efforts to deter Iraqi WMD proliferation and use.
in. U.S. EFFORTS TO DETER IRAQ FROM USING WMD
A. U.S. ATTEMPTS AT COERCIVE DIPLOMACY
Iraq's territorial dispute with Kuwait is not new. Failure of the colonial powers to
agree on fixed borders in 1922 planted the seeds of discontent. In 1973 Iraqi troops
moved across the border and occupied the Kuwaiti outpost of Samitah. They occupied
the region for one year before being forced out by Saudi Arabian diplomatic efforts. The
deeply ingrained political disputes would not be eliminated, only pushed aside. On 2
August 1990 Iraq invaded Kuwait again.
The Gulf crisis of 1990-1991 marked a discombobulated period in American
foreign policy. The fragile balance in the relationship the United States has with the
countries of the Middle East was seriously threatened by Iraq. Extensive diplomatic
efforts, attempted by the United States, were aimed at defusing the crisis. The
consequences of a failed political solution meant possible confrontation with Iraq's CBW
arsenal. Policy makers were now confronted with their first post-Cold War WMD
Richard Herrmann divides the Gulf crisis into four periods: (1) a pre-crisis period
prior to the Iraqi invasion; (2) a reactive crisis phase between 2 August 1990 and early
October 1990, in which the United States deployed a deterrent force to Saudi Arabia and
employed economic sanctions strategy; (3) a transition phase running from late October
1990 through December 1990 in which U.S. coercive diplomacy moved from an
economic strategy to the threat of direct force; and (4) military action against Iraqi forces
in Kuwait. Herrmann's framework will be the basis of analysis for this chapter.
2. The Pre-crisis Period
On 17 July 1990 Saddam Hussein declared that economic war had been waged on
Iraq. He stated that the "subversive policy," undertaken by Kuwait and the United Arab
Emirates (UAE), was a direct result of undue influence by the United States. Two days
later, the Iraqi National Assembly denounced the "conspiracy" and called for Iraq to
bring all available means to bring pressure on Kuwait and the UAE. The same day,
U.S. Defense Secretary Richard B. Cheney reiterated that the U.S. commitment to protect
Kuwait during the Iran-Iraq War remained intact. 59
The political statements from Baghdad continued to intensify as did the troop
buildups on the Iraqi-Kuwait border. The United States confined its reply to shuttle
diplomacy and firm statements of impending military confrontation. Despite assurances
from the leaders of other Middle Eastern countries and high ranking U.S. officials, all
meeting privately with Hussein, Secretary of State James Baker was thinking the worst.
"The fact that you have people like Saddam Hussein is reason enough to create an
incentive to get all the chemical weapons states on board," he told his Russian
counterpart, Edward Shevardnadze. 60 Despite the diplomatic efforts and statements
57 Richard Herrmann, "Coercive Diplomacy and the Crisis over Kuwait, 1990-1991," in The Limits of
Coercive Diplomacy, ed. Alexander George and William E, Simons, (Boulder: Westview Press, 1994), pp.
58 Nye and Smith, After the Storm, p. 299.
59 Ibid., p. 299.
60 Baker, The Politics of Diplomacy, p. 269.
advising Iraq not to enter Kuwait, Hussein's military crossed the border on 2 August
3. The Reactive Crisis Phase
Following the 2 August invasion of Kuwait, the United States was cautious not to
inflame the situation with hostile statements. Instead, the Bush administration
condemned the action, froze Iraqi and Kuwaiti assets and deferred action to the United
Nations Security Council. The action was deterrence by denial. The U.S. action would
deny Iraq the Kuwaiti economic assets they jealously coveted. As a precautionary
measure, two carrier battlegroups were ordered into the Gulf with full knowledge that,
logistically, a major deployment of American troops was still months away. Domestic
political support for using troops to repel Iraq from Kuwait was not reflected in
Congress. The Senate was only willing to authorize collective action under the auspices
of the UN to restore stability. The Bush administration was all too aware of this fact and
set out to build support methodically.
Now that Iraq had occupied Kuwait, President Bush had decided the first
imperative was to deter Iraq from invading Saudi Arabia. He released a statement on 3
August stating that Saudi Arabia was a "vital interest" and that further expansion by Iraqi
forces would invite U.S. military response. 61 The action, which began as diplomatic
pressure, escalated into economic pressure. The endpoint of this strategy was to isolate
Iraq through a global political alliance. The difficulty of the sanctions policy was that it
placed enormous burdens upon many nations within the coalition. For example, Turkey
61 Nye and Smith, After the Storm, p. 303.
shut down its oil pipeline flowing from Iraq to the Mediterranean. It was estimated that
Turkey would lose nearly $2.5 billion in receipts from this action. 62 The United States
had anticipated such hardships and proceeded to petition the World Bank for interim
4. The Transition From Coercion to Threat of Force
American policy makers concluded the economic impact was taking effect, but
not quickly enough. President Bush attempted to "tighten the screws" by announcing
that there was "no flexibility" in the U.S. demands regarding the Iraqi withdrawal.
Within a one week period, the United States made several overt gestures that the
economic sanctions would be joined by military threats. Some of the more notable
gestures included: a $6 billion advanced weaponry sale to Saudi Arabia circumventing
Congressional limits; Secretary Cheney's securing of permission to base U.S. combat
aircraft in Bahrain, UAE, Quatar and Oman; and President Bush's formal announcement
that Egypt's debt to the United States has been canceled. 63 The maneuvers were meant to
indicate a limit on the tolerance of the U.S. government concerning instability in the Gulf
region. Moreover, the applied threat was intended to force Iraq's hand as the economic
embargo exacted its toll on the smaller countries of the allied coalition.
While the actions and implied intentions of the United States appeared to
escalate, the official statements were still very guarded. In mid-September, General
Michael Dugan, the U.S. Air Force chief of staff, was dismissed for suggesting that a
heavy bombing campaign of Baghdad was necessary to expel Iraq from Kuwait. 64
62 Ibid., p. 284
63 Ibid., p. 316
5. Military Action against Iraq
In late October early November 1990, a definite shift appears in the diplomatic
efforts of the United States. The discussions move from political cooperation to military
cooperation. Iraq's military potential was invoked as further justification to move
militarily. In addition to CB W, Secretary Cheney said Iraq that was closer to building a
nuclear weapon than before the crisis. In a Thanksgiving Day speech to soldiers
stationed in Saudi Arabia, he described the Iraqi WMD program as "marking a sense of
urgency for the American troops." 65
Henry Kissinger testified in a Senate hearing regarding UN sanctions and long
term U.S. interests within the region: "By the time it is evident that sanctions alone
cannot succeed, a credible military option will probably no longer exist." 66 The remark
focused upon two facts. First, the economic sanctions were taking a heavy toll on the
civilian population of Iraq and surrounding countries. Saddam Hussein remained
unaffected and indifferent to his country's suffering. The priority for food and material
goods was given to the military. The implications of supplying and maintaining the
military indicated he was planning to use it. Second and more ominous was the fact that
Iraqi nuclear weapons possibly could turn the crisis into a standoff. The overriding
concern was to maintain stability in the region and not reward Iraq for its aggression.
Giving Iraq additional time to complete production of its nuclear weapons program
would hinder regional stability. Iraq had to be removed from Kuwait prior to its
65 Cited in Ibid., p. 326.
66 Cited in Ibid., p. 327.
obtaining a nuclear weapons capability. The time for unchallenged U.S. military
superiority and ineffective UN sanctions was running out.
The United States could not afford a credible challenge to its nuclear deterrence
policies. The Russians were skeptical of UN-governed military action. They were not
entirely convinced that the United States would leave the region following the conclusion
of the Gulf War. Nuclear confrontation would have escalated the conflict beyond any
acceptable terms for the Russians and most likely would have driven them from the
coalition. Two major factors appear to have driven the military timeline. First,
avoidance of credible challenges to U.S. nuclear deterrence. Perceived vacillation might
create security dilemmas in both the immediate and extended deterrence policies.
Secondly, the use of nuclear weapons would legitimize all forms of WMD.
Diplomatic pressure and economic sanctions imposed by the UN failed to bring
about Iraqi compliance. As hopes for a political solution dwindled, U.S. military leaders
focused on Iraqi WMD and future security ramifications for the region. Given Iraq's
historical use of CBW, the Pentagon's perception of Iraqi action favored CBW use. Iraq
had used CBW defensively in the past against Iran and the Kurds. While Iraq exhibited
some offensive capabilities late in the conflict with Iran, CBW was seen as a weapon of
last resort. 67 In the face of overwhelming odds against the coalition forces, Iraq would
surely be tempted to use its trump card. Further complicating the scenario was the
67 McCarthy and Tucker, "Saddam's Strategic Arsenal," p. 21.
suspected attempt by Iraq to bring Israel into the conflict, thereby effectively breaking up
the fragile coalition of forces.
When dealing with the aggressive and determined regime of Iraq, every policy
option has counteractive effects. There is a certain opportunity cost in opting for short-
term security with the imposition of economic sanctions. There is the added cost of
human suffering. Conversely, transitioning from a political to a forceful military solution
also created obstacles for future U.S. policy. The dynamics of the Gulf region do not
afford the United States with many chances to forge lasting relationships.
Avoiding the appearance of Western hegemony appears to be the underlying
theme of a carefully worded letter from President Bush to Saddam Hussein. Secretary of
State James Baker delivered it to the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Tariq Aziz, on 9 January
1991. While the letter was not antagonistic, Aziz told Baker that it "was full of threats."
The letter avoided the direct nuclear retaliation threat for Iraqi CBW use, but promised
that "The American people would demand the strongest possible response. You and your
country will pay a terrible price if you order unconscionable acts of this sort.'
The United States and its allies can influence policies within the region only so
far. Countering aggression within the region was a double-edged sword for U.S. policy.
It had to be sufficient to secure national interests yet stop short of the perception of
68 Steve A. Yetiv, The Persian Gulf Crisis (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1992), p. 179.
IV. WHY IRAQ DID NOT USE WMD DURING THE GULF WAR
This chapter examines why Iraq did not carry out its threat to use CBW. Iraq had
dedicated vast resources and capital toward CBW procurement. With this fervent
commitment to both nuclear and non-nuclear WMD, why was it not used in 1991? The
Iraqi government has not released any official statement regarding this issue. Therefore,
Iraqi conduct during the Gulf War might be interpreted in many ways. This chapter
discusses some of the plausible, alternative explanations for Iraq's non-use of CBW.
These explanations contrast with the widely accepted assumption that the threat of a U.S.
nuclear strike alone deterred Iraqi WMD. However, that possibility should not be
discounted. Rather, the possibility of a nuclear strike in combination with the alternative
explanations presented here contributed to non-use of Iraqi CBW.
B. IRAQI INCENTIVES TO DEVELOP AND USE CBW
1. Requirements of an Effective CBW Arsenal
The requirements for chemical weapon design are considerable. However, CBW
is the logical choice for Iraq or any other developing country seeking WMD capability.
The effectiveness of the NPT regime, prohibitive costs, and monumental technological
expertise place nuclear weapons well out of reach for most developing nations.
The primary concern of any CBW weapon is its physical structure. First
generation weapons are referred to as "unitary weapons." That is, the munition is
composed of a single agent compound. This creates a handling and transport
impediments as well as a daunting task for maintenance and storage. Second generation
chemical arsenals consist of "binary" munitions. The chemical compounds are in two
canisters within the warhead. Each chemical is relatively harmless in itself. After the
munition is launched, the canisters are allowed to mix creating the designated agent.
Physical stability is important not only for handling and transport purposes but the
warhead must also be capable of withstanding the actual firing of the munition. 69
The toxicity levels of the weapon must be sufficient to render the
necessary effects. World War one is earmarked by several employments of chemical
weapons whose toxicity was less than effective. In many cases, the onset of effects did
not occur until hours after the gas was delivered. While this might have had some
psychological effect on the soldiers, it had little value as a chemical weapon
The next requirement is an obvious one. The chemical agent must be
delivered to the target in sufficient concentration to achieve the desired effect.
Delivering concentrations of highly volatile agents is counterproductive. Closely related
to the concentration level is persistency. 71
69 Valerie Adams, Chemical Warfare, Chemical Disarmament (Bloomington: Indiana University Press,
1990), pp. 7-8.
Persistency factors into the military planners considerations for
employment as well. Persistency dictates the manner in which a chemical agent is used.
Effectiveness is closely related to persistency because of the environmental conditions.
The chemical agent might be delivered with sufficient concentration but be quickly
dissipated by wind or rain. The ideal chemical agents will persist long enough, in
ambient conditions, for the designed purpose.
Lastly, the chemical agents must be able to withstand changes in
temperature. The corrosive nature cannot be such that the projectile casings will have to
be replaced in short duration. Most importantly, the selected agent must be suitable for
large-scale production to ensure availability.
C. FORMIDABLE CHARACTERISTICS OF BW
The biological agent is far less predictable than the chemical agent. This is
mainly due to the requirement that the disease spread quickly and effectively. Ideally,
the agent should infect the target population with a disease that has no readily available
cure. Furthermore, the factor of concentration plays an important part in the
employment. Unlike chemical weapons, where effects occur at less than required
concentrations, insufficient concentrations of BW agents might not be enough to create
the disease intended. Environmental conditions are also a concern when considering
concentrations. Many pathogens are killed by merely exposing them to sunlight, fresh
air, or abnormal temperatures. The heat generated when a munition is fired is enough to
destroy many biological agents. Biological agents do not need to be fired out of the
barrel of an artillery weapon. There are several non-explosive methods to release these
The requirements for BW agents are not as easy to quantify. Measuring the
lethality of the various BW agents is difficult and uncertain. Primarily, the difficulty
arises in discerning from natural outbreaks versus BW employment. The nature of the
BW is inherently less stable than the chemical counterpart. Because the BW is not a
specified mixture of chemical agents, it is susceptible to variation. This variation leads
to differing levels of persistency and effectiveness. To a certain degree the ability of the
population to resist the BW agent also impacts the measured effectiveness. 74
D. TACTICAL ADVANTAGES
There are several tactical advantages to CBW. The nature of this type of warfare
gives the user the advantage because if implemented properly, it is a force multiplier. As
in any battle, the element of surprise wreaks havoc upon the enemy. The ancient military
strategist, Sun Tzu, believed that surprise was a practical option which should be on the
military leader's mind at all times. There are three ways to achieve surprise when using
CBW: employment, innovation and speed. First, introducing and using CBW when the
enemy does not expect it; as in the case of the Iran-Iraq War, dramatically favors the
aggressor. Second, if new and unknown agents are used, they can defeat CBW defensive
measures in place. Finally, the technique of delivery and time period of employment can
overcome the enemy's ability to compensate and counterattack. 75
Another tactical advantage of CBW is the area that is affected. If the wind
conditions are favorable, chemical agents will affect a far wider area than most
conventional explosives. Rapid reduction of enemy forces certainly contributes to the
surprise. This fact is substantiated by the data presented in Table 4. 1. 76
Table 4.1 Comparison Of Chemical / Conventional Multi-Barrel Launcher Attacks
(9 hectare area)
rockets used % casualties
rockets used % casualties
An approximate comparison between the number of conventional (high explosive) and chemical
rockets launched from multi-barrel launchers to achieve a level of casualties of about 50 - 60 per cent, using
6 multi-barrel rocket launchers, with observed fire in neutral wind speed conditions of three meters per
The duration and efficiency of the attacks contribute greatly to tactical advantage.
It is true that volatile chemical agents may be driven in an undesired path due to winds,
yet ground contamination agents prove to be more effective. They remain restricted to
75 Herman Ochsner, History of German Chemical Warfare in World War II, Pt. 1 (Washington DC: Office
Chief of Chemical Corps, 1949), p. 2.
76 Edward M. Spiers, Chemical and Biological Weapons: A Study of Proliferation (New York: St. Martin's
Press, 1994), p. 159.
the area where they were applied. Moreover, chemical agents will tend to reach
locations that conventional weapons cannot. Dead spaces, deep trenches, fortified terrain
positions which normally require a disproportionate expenditure of ammunition are now
targets of opportunity.
Serious effects on the combat efficiency and morale of the troops result from the
execution of CBW. Fatigue sets in from the extra, protective clothing. The soldier's
resolve is tested. Proper meals are no longer possible. The anxiety level goes up creating
new opportunities for mistakes. The entire focus for the individual on the battlefield has
Policy makers are very aware of the psychological factor imposed by CBW. The
chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Les Aspin, made this statement in
September 1990 concerning BW:
Saddam Hussein... is expected to have a militarily
significant biological program by the end of this year or
early next year. This will be a new dimension to the
problem. It is a more important and more serious element
than the chemical threat. It is harder to deal with. 77
E. TACTICAL DISADVANTAGES
As quickly as CBW can be a force multiplier, it can become a force detractor.
CBW does not discriminate between friendly and enemy forces. The effects of wind,
weather and season must be accounted for prior to CBW employment. A follow-on
consideration for the advancing troops after CBW is the contamination of a persistent
agent. 78 Like the physical stresses of the enemy, the protective measures require
77 CNN: War in the Gw//(Atlanta: Turner Publishing Co., 1991), p. 49.
78 Ibid., p. 3.
diligence and discipline. If the training and practice cycles were not conducted properly,
the risk to friendly forces is the same as it is for the enemy forces.
F. REASONS FOR ADOPTING A CBW POLICY
For some messianic fundamentalists in the Middle East,
Mutual Assured Destruction is not a deterrent but a
-The New York Times 19
There are several crucial aspects to adopting a CBW program. Central to the
understanding is the acknowledgment that these weapons are more genocidal than
political. They appeal to Ba'athist ideology in which fierce emotions, ethnic rivalries,
and deep seated religious intolerance combined with the self-proclaimed effects of
martyrdom prevail. The power of secular politics comes second in Iraqi society. The
doctrine that shaped the Cold War, Mutual Assured Destruction, appeals less to Iraq.
Instead, "Mutual Assured Annihilation" seems to be preferable. 80 National self
determination, economic independence, competition for non-renewable resources like oil
and minerals, and overpopulation all contribute to the global tensions. The
aforementioned pressures are likely to make non-nuclear WMD attractive alternatives for
coercion and substantial bargaining.
CBW has often been referred to as the "poor man's atomic bomb." While it might
not give a country superpower status, it certainly commands the attention of the
superpower(s). It is available at a fraction of the cost of a nuclear arsenal. CBW
technology is also less complicated than nuclear technology and that much easier to
79 Cited in William E. Burrows and Robert Windrem, Critical Mass: The Dangerous Race for
Superweapons in a Fragmenting World (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994), p. 120.
80 Ibid., p. 19.
conceal. Mere possession creates a deterrent capability that must be considered
thoughtfully. The Gulf War is a prime example of this. While no deliberate employment
of chemical weapons took place, the potential existed. It is very doubtful that Iraq did
not notice the amount of attention given to its CBW arsenal. In fact, testimony given
before congress by General Norman Schwarzkopf essentially legitimized Iraq's CBW
arsenal in the mind of Hussein. While trying to convey the level of threat to Congress,
General Schwarzkopf most certainly motivated Hussein to expand WMD procurement:
...one of my biggest concerns from the outset was the
psychological impact of the initial use of chemical
weapons on the troops. If they fight through it, then it is no
longer ever going to be a problem. But if it stops them
dead in their tracks and scares them to death, that is a
continuing problem. And that was one of the concerns we
had all along. 81
This statement, from the most powerful military commander in the world, justifies WMD
acquisition in the mind of Saddam Hussein.
The next example, Figure 4.2, illustrates CBW as an effective psychological
weapon of terror. 82
81 Cited in Spiers, Chemical and Biological Weapons, p. 1 17.
82 International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), Military Balance 1988-89 (London: HSS, 1989), p.
Figure 4.2 A Scud Missile Attack
"9? 5 km-
Ground contamination rates:
3 g per m
1 g per m
1 mg min. m 2
5 km 1 km 2 km 3 km
Distance From Point of Impact (km)
Figure 4.2 depicts the following conditions: One missile fired (CEP-900m); wind speed
5m/sec; neutral atmospheric conditions. The most likely casualty effects if a nerve agent,
i.e., Soman or similar, were used would be: Area A - many dead; Area B - some dead,
many ill; Area C - many moderately ill; Area D - mild effects.
Had Hussein fired Scud missiles, with CBW warheads, into Israeli cities, the
damage would have been immense. During the Gulf War, Hussein adequately
demonstrated his willingness and capability to fire Scud missiles, armed with
conventional warheads into Israel. Hussein's decision to do so also underscored the
exposed position of any state to a long-range missile attack in the Middle East. This
comes as no surprise to the leadership of Iraq. And it is for this reason that Iraq
continues aggressively to seek advanced CBW capabilities.
G. POSSIBLE EXPLANATIONS FOR THE LACK OF IRAQI CBW
Together with the reasons mentioned earlier in the chapter, Iraq feels justified in
maintaining a strategic CBW arsenal. The following presuppositions are based on
observed behavioral patterns and statements of the Iraqi leadership. The explanations
offered are the most plausible, given the political and geographical disposition of Iraq.
There exists no official Iraqi explanation as to the necessity of the WMD programs.
Furthermore, the role of the CBW appears to fit a defensive posture. This fact calls into
question the explanation for lack of Iraqi initiated CBW attacks. Given past Iraqi modus
operandi, faced with overwhelming coalition forces, Iraq should have used WMD. It did
not. The explanation might lie with one or more, in combination, of the following
2. Past Operational Effectiveness
Iraqi CBW attacks against Iran and the Kurds were made purely from a defensive
posture. Neither employment was a " gas and go" operation. Inexperience and the lack
of a robust capability appear to fuel the reluctance towards offensive operations. Iraq
experimented in the final stages of the Iran-Iraq war with attempts to shorten the period
between weapon employment and troop occupation. Iraqi troops still have not
demonstrated a willingness or capability to operate within a chemically active range.
The likelihood that Iraq would change doctrinally from defensive posture CBW to
offensive posture CBW in less than three years is highly unlikely. Iraqi research and
development programs concentrated on improving and expanding the CBW arsenal.
Aside from the asymmetrical use of CBW on Iran and the Kurds, Iraq's doctrine closely
paralleled that of the Soviet Union. That doctrine called for the offensive employment of
CBW with nuclear weapons. The lack of nuclear weapons left Iraq to rely upon its newly
developed and untested arsenal. Iraqi risk assessment most likely found that the risks far
outweighed the benefits. Very little data could be found on effective Iraqi
countermeasures for CBW.
In the war with Iran, Iraqi aircraft and artillery were the primary delivery vehicles
for CW. Total coalition air supremacy precluded any Iraqi flight operations. Much of
the Iraqi artillery batteries were decimated by the air campaign and the surviving guns
were overrun by ground forces
3. Strategic Deterrence of Israeli WMD
Saddam Hussein and others within the government see Israel as the enemy of the
Arab world. The long-standing dispute between Israel and Iraq fuels the WMD
deterrence requirements for both countries. Each country fears the other's WMD. It is
also interesting to note that neither country professes a first-use policy toward the other.
Again, the CBW arsenal appears to take on a defensive role. Evidence points to
the deterrence posture exhibited in the "Thunderstrike" option. Iraq's national security
and intelligence programs reevaluated regional threats following the cessation of the
Iran-Iraq war. It was decided that Israel was the greatest threat. 83 There were two
avenues of approach to dealing with Israel. First, the Iraqis wanted to deter the Israeli
83 McCarthy and Tucker, "Saddam's Strategic Arsenal," p. 18.
WMD arsenal. Second, it wanted to protect its territory from another conventional,
Ironically, the possibility of another preemptive raid might have driven the
arsenal underground. The BW program, compared to the CW program, is in its infancy.
As such, Iraq has not had the opportunity to extensively field test the BW weapons.
Wide variations of concentration and persistency of BW inject too many inconsistencies
into the battlefield equation. These shortcomings are due partly to the requirements of
secrecy and also the relatively new production technology.
4. Regional Ambitions
Saddam Hussein exhibits unbridled self-adulation and a diminutive political
acumen. Nevertheless, he aspires to be the leader of the pan- Arab movement and kick
the infidels out of the region. To do this, he must possess two things: the military
strength and the loyalty of the other countries in the region. Hussein feels that CBW will
be both a political and military weapon to serve his personal aspirations. With the other
Arab nations standing against Iraq in the Gulf War, the decision not to use WMD seems
to have worked in Iraq's favor. In Hussein's mind, he still sees himself as the leader of
the Arab world. This goal would have been exceedingly difficult to achieve if he had
used WMD against other Arabs in the coalition. Secondly, by not using the WMD
arsenal, he further advances the perception that Iraq was a victim of Western antagonistic
5. Command and Control Problems
Conflicting reports have surfaced as to whether or not CB W was ever employed
in the field. According to Anthony Cordesman, Iraq weaponized three biological agents
for use in the Gulf War. The weaponization consisted of: 100 bombs and 15 missile
warheads loaded with Botulinum; 50 R-400 bombs and 15 missile warheads loaded with
anthrax; and 16 missile warheads loaded with Aflatoxin. 84 There is no strong evidence
to suggest these weapons were on the battlefield. Even so, had the warheads been in the
field, the Iraqi communications infrastructure had been eliminated early on. Hussein had
no way to communicate the order to launch. Even if he had given the order it is
impossible that every commander disobeyed the command. These facts point to only two
answers: (1) the warheads were never deployed; or (2) the order was never given.
6. Logistical Shortcomings
Based upon the Iran-Iraq War and use against the Kurds, CBW was a weapon of
last resort. Weapons of this nature are generally not on the forward edge of the battle
area. Rather, they are held in reserve in the rear. Coalition air attacks destroyed all
logistic capabilities of the Iraqi army. They simply had no way to get the weapons onto
the battle field. Additionally, evidence from the last section points strongly to no CBW
7. Unacceptable Performance of CBW Munitions
Iraq's purification process, particularly for the nerve agents, lacked the necessary
sophistication. UNSCOM investigations showed Iraq's mustard gas agent was about 80
84 Cordesman and Hashim, Iraq: Sanctions and Beyond, p. 300.
percent pure. Two Iraqi nerve agents, Tabun and Sarin, were only 60 percent pure and
had an extremely short shelf life. It is entirely possible that the weapons were not used
because they would not have achieved their desired effect. An effective deterrent either
(a) causes deterrence by denial or (b) deterrence by punishment. Expecting the Iraqi
CBW arsenal to do either effectively is highly implausible given these figures. It is also
quite probable that Iraq might have filled the munitions prematurely anticipating earlier
Iraq may have feared nuclear retaliation or massive escalation leading to coalition
occupation. A declassified CIA document confirms this premise. In addition, it lists a
number of other factors that constrained Baghdad's use of CW. The weather conditions
never favored CW. Rain accompanied with high winds blowing to the north onto Iraqi
units would have greatly reduced the effectiveness of chemical weapons. The document
also suggests that the battle developed so rapidly that it was impossible for Iraq to
effectively target coalition units. 86 This concurs the logistical failures cited earlier.
Six years after the conclusion of the Gulf War, there is still considerable
uncertainty as to why Iraq refrained from using its CBW arsenal. The answer might lie
with several of the preceding arguments or some unexplained cause. The Iraqis have not
issued any reason nor are they likely to. Though Hussein claims to have decentralized
command over CBW warheads and given authority to tactical commanders, Iraq used no
85 Ibid, p. 316
86 CIA, Why WMD Were Withheld, http://www.gulflink.osd.mil/. File: 071596_cia_75701_75701_01.txt.
such weapons. Evidence suggests that this claim was false. The CBW equipped
munitions were never deployed south into the Kuwaiti theater.
87 Ibid., p. 315.
V. IRAQI WMD EFFORTS AFTER DESERT STORM AND IMPLICATIONS
FOR U.S. DEFENSE POLICY
It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.
Gen. Douglas MacArthur (1952) 88
At the time of this writing, Iraq stands in defiance of the UN and the UNSCOM
inspection teams. This maneuvering by Hussein is another effort in a long pattern of
predictable behavior. Given the past efforts to acquire WMD, it is extremely unlikely
that Iraq will fully comply with any UN disarmament resolution. Iraq continues to apply
itself to developing and maintaining a formidable WMD stockpile. Secret storage
facilities and production efforts remain hidden from UNSCOM teams. The domination
of coalition forces over Iraq provided temporary relief from regional stability. Within a
short period of time, Iraq has started to rebuild militarily. Present-day defiance of the
UN is a grim reminder of pre-Gulf War Iraqi behavior. Undivided attention must be
placed upon Iraq and its regional aspirations. It is essential for future U.S. policy
concerning Iraq to maintain the security of the region and U.S. national interests without
giving the impression of superpower hegemony.
Substantial implications to U.S. defense policy occur in four areas: (1)
eliminating current stockpiles of WMD; (2) emerging WMD missile technology; (3)
future chemical weapons capabilities; (4) future biological weapons capabilities; and (5)
Iraq's role in supporting terrorism.
88 Cited in Merriam-Webster Dictionary of Quotations (Springfield: Merriam-Webster, 1993), CD-ROM
B. FUTURE WMD CAPABILITIES
Iraqi WMD continues to be a reality the United States must deal with.
Elimination of substantial stockpiles occurred during the Gulf War. Subsequently the
UN Security Council Resolution 687 continues the elimination via UNSCOM
inspections. While the tangible weapons may be taken away, the process still does not
relieve the potential threat. It is unrealistic to think otherwise. What the Gulf War did
not do and UNSCOM cannot do is eradicate the knowledge base and technicians from
Iraq. As long as the scientific community is there and a determined political will drives
the issues, Iraq will possess WMD.
2. Current Stockpiles Of Weapons
On 3 April 1991, the UN Security Council passed resolution 687. The resolution
called for, among other things, the complete destruction, removal or dismantling of all
chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. The resolution also includes all research,
development, storage, production, and repair facilities, and ballistic missiles exceeding
150 kilometers. The resolution linked Iraqi compliance to economic incentives such as
oil exports. Recently, there was a stand-off between Iraq and UN officials over the
composition of the UNSCOM teams. The major objection, besides the inspections, was
the personnel composition of the teams. Iraq is refusing to allow any American inspector
in the country.
This resistance is not new. From the beginning, as early as 5 April 1991, Iraq has
been resisting UN and UNSCOM inspections. Iraqi forces were documented salvaging
equipment of missiles, WMD and cleaning up suspect weapon sites. 89
Revelations by a defector and former head of Iraq's WMD program, Hussein
Kamel Majid, disclosed the deliberate and systematic plan to deceive UNSCOM
inspectors. This defection occurred on 7 August 1995. This proved that Iraqi officials
never had any intention of complying with the UN resolution. Iraq will never be
completely forthright concerning its WMD programs. It also implies that there are
several gaps in the nonproliferation regimes and the UNSCOM inspection process.
3. Emerging WMD Missile Technology
During the Gulf War, Iraq fired a total of 88 long range missiles. The missiles
were a product of a development period begun during the Iran-Iraq War. During the mid-
1980s, a concerted effort to increase the missile stockpiles led to indigenous production
capabilities. At the time of the Gulf War, Iraq was said to have had at least 1 1 missile
programs either deployed or in development. Chemical and biological warheads had
already been developed and work had begun on a nuclear warhead.
The continued proliferation of missile-related technology by French, German,
Central European, and Russian firms hinders current UN efforts. U.S. intelligence
analysts also believe Iraq is hiding large numbers of Scud missiles and associated
Cordesman and Hashim, Iraq: Sanctions and Beyond, p. 291
Ibid., p. 306.
91 Ibid., p. 307.
4. Future Chemical Weapon Capabilities
Iraq pursued a nuclear weapons program in the late eighties and early nineties.
However, the Israeli preventive strike eliminated its nuclear facility and most of the
technology. Unable to recover this lost nuclear capability, Iraq chose to compensate with
Unlike nuclear technology, chemical and biological weapon technology does not
require international transfers, thus many nonproliferation safeguards can be
circumvented. The choice to pursue CB W was based on several factors: cost,
availability, and past battlefield experience. Up front, the relatively inexpensive cost of
capital and production time made CB W the likely WMD candidate. Next, many
chemical and biological precursors were readily available. Dual-use technology affords
accessibility to many of the required materials and production processes. In addition,
four years prior to the destruction of their nuclear facility, they engaged in chemical
warfare against the neighboring country of Iran. Chemical weapons also were used
within the borders of Iraq against the Kurdish people in 1988. It is important to note that
the international community did not raise much of a protest over these uses of chemical
weapons. Rather, Iraq seemed to operate with impunity while the global community
looked on with indifference. The lack of any international condemnation served as silent
vindication for Iraqi actions. Ten years later, many of those apathetic spectators would
have to find a way to confront those capabilities.
At the time of the Gulf War, the allied coalition would face an improved chemical
weapons program and a biological weapons capability as well. Saddam Hussein, is
relentless in his pursuit of regional dominance. The WMD programs are at the forefront
of Iraq's defense industry. The goal of middle eastern dominance, so far, has not been
achieved. Temporarily set back by the Gulf War and ensuing United Nations sanctions,
Iraq is not dissuaded in the least. Efforts continue despite UNSCOM inspections. Based
on Iraq's past behavior, future capabilities and intentions will plague U.S. policy makers.
Iraq's indigenous capability to produce chemical weapons began in 1974.
Additionally, Iraq maintains several underground storage facilities dispersed throughout
the country. Present day chemical weapons primarily include mustard-type blister agents
and the nerve agents, sarin, cyclosarin, VX and tabun. The nerve agents are extremely
lethal in small doses.
From the inception of the CBW program up to the Gulf War, Iraq made
tremendous strides in its developmental capabilities. Iraq has developed a highly refined
mustard gas in liquid form with a long shelf-life. Unconventional means of CBW
dissemination have also been pursued. Several avenues of evidence suggest that Iraq has
since developed a process to turn the liquid mustard gas into a dry form that is later
mixed with a talcum-like powder substance. Referred to as "dusty mustard," the
chemical agent adheres to the powder medium and can then be dispersed via a respiring
aerosol. This technique exponentially increases the inhalation toxicity. 92 The Defense
Intelligence Agency has published a declassified intelligence report on "dusty mustard,"
citing: "The agent dusty mustard, and dusty agents in general, are disseminated in a dry
aerosol and may be difficult to detect. The aerosol filter in a protective-mask canister
92 U. S Army, Field Manual 3-3: Chemical and Biological Contamination Avoidance , p. 3-1.
will stop a dusty agent and protect the wearer, but unless the agent can be readily
detected, the potential victim is unlikely to be masked." 93
Robert Gates, a former Director of Central Intelligence, testified before Congress
on Iraqi efforts to lie and conceal its CBW program. In early 1992, he stated, "Iraq's
"hard to get production equipment" for chemical weapons had been dispersed and
"hidden" prior to allied bombing attacks. He also stated that "if sanctions are relaxed,
we believe Iraq could produce modest quantities of chemical agents almost immediately,
but it would take a year or more to recover the chemical weapons capability it previously
UNSCOM has obtained more recent information that Iraq is still importing
chemical precursors under the guise of pharmaceutical supplies. 95 On 19 November
1997, Senior Pentagon intelligence analysts stated that if the current standoff with Iraq
continued much longer, Iraq would be able to produce chemical agents in a matter of
days. Its ability to weaponize the agent would be a matter of weeks. 96
5. Future Biological Weapon Capabilities
The UN is now actively engaged in trying to ascertain the extent and capabilities
of the Iraqi biological weapons program. It is now known that Iraq was fully prepared to
use BW against Iran had the war continued. Largely overshadowed by CW, the BW
93 Defense Intelligence Agency, "Iraq : Chemical and Biological Capabilities as of August J 990, " 21
August 1990, GulfLINK document no. 73876681.
Cordesman and Hashim, Iraq: Sanctions and Beyond, p. 317.
96 CNN news broadcast, 19 November 1997. Special report on Iraqi refusal to comply with UN Security
Council Resolution 687 requiring UNSCOM teams to inspect for WMD.
programs did not receive the same attention from UNSCOM until they were alerted in
September 1995. 97
Initially denying any knowledge of a BW program, Iraq reluctantly admitted
having one when confronted with evidence provided by the defector Hussein Kamel. The
same uncertainties of the CW program apply to the BW program. Iraqi intent is to
deliberately mislead UN inspectors. The Iraqi government claims to have destroyed all
of its BW capability in May-June 1991. Yet it can offer no evidence, either a date or a
site, where this alleged destruction took place. Information obtained from Kamel
confirmed that this, too, was a complete and total fabrication.
As it turns out, Iraq had an extensive biological arsenal ready to use against the
allied coalition in 1991. Iraq had 90,000 liters of botulinium toxin and 8,300 liters of
Anthrax. Both had been weaponized on Scud warheads and aerial bombs. Additionally,
research into infectious agents and Mycotoxins had taken place. This production took
place at Al Hakam and was completely dispersed prior to the beginning of hostilities in
The following example demonstrates Iraq's continued commitment to possessing
WMD. The Secretary of Defense's publication Proliferation: Threat and Response
November 1997, states:
The depth and breadth of Iraq's previous chemical
warfare efforts, the rebuilding of key facilities since 1991,
and the consistent pattern of trying to deceive UNSCOM
about the scope of its previous efforts and remaining
capabilities clearly indicate Iraq's intent to rebuild this
capacity, should it be given the opportunity.
97 Cordesman and Hashim, Iraq: Sanctions and Beyond, p. 3 18.
98 Office of the Secretary of Defense, Proliferation Threat and Response, April 1996 (Washington DC
U.S. Government Printing Office), pp. 17-24.
Iraq has rebuilt key portions of its chemical
production infrastructure for industrial and commercial
use. The facilities are currently subject to UN scrutiny, but
they could be converted fairly quickly, allowing Iraq to
restart limited agent production. Even though some foreign
assistance for equipment and material would be required
for all but a minimum effort, Iraq would need several
months to produce a usable stockpile of agents and several
years to return to pre-Gulf stockpile levels."
C. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
If Iraq decides to act aggressively and threaten the region with CBW, the United
States may opt to threaten nuclear retaliation. This decision leaves the policy makers
with only two options. If the threat is challenged, the United States must deliver as
threatened or back down. Neither of the resulting outcomes gain favor with the
international community. Using a nuclear weapon goes against the nonproliferation
regimes and could legitimize the use of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in the
eyes of other countries.
The 1997 National Security Strategy, states that the current Administration
supports the international treaty regimes that prohibit the acquisition of WMD. These
regimes include the NPT, the CWC, and the BWC. Possible future U.S. deterrence
policy regarding Iraqi WMD clashes with this ideology. How can the United States
threaten a non-nuclear nation with nuclear weapons and at the same time tell developing
countries not to invest in nuclear, chemical or biological weapons? It cannot. Political
hypocrisy erodes credibility and creates distrust. Hence, future deterrence policy
regarding Iraq's non-nuclear WMD must operate within the confines of the
99 OSD, Proliferation. Threat and Response November J 997, http://www.defenseiink.mil/Iraq/.
nonproliferation regime guidelines. To avoid legitimization of WMD, asymmetrical
conventional military response is the appropriate course of action.
Strategists and policy makers must expect Iraqi non-compliance and aggression.
As long as Saddam Hussein is in power, the determination to dominate the region will
prevail. Iraq currently does not comply fully with the UN sanctions and it violates the
UN no-fly zones. Iraq continues to position itself to resume its military buildup the
instant the sanctions are lifted.
U.S. policy makers must be poised for any number of contingencies arising in
Iraq. While Iraq is weaker militarily, as compared to 1991, it still has many conflict
options available. Some of the possible regional contingencies the U.S. must be prepared
to deal with include:
• War with the Kurds in the Kurdish security zone.
• Major clashes resulting from refusal to allow UN inspections to take
• Chemical or biological terrorism.
• Clashes with Turkey or Iran over efforts to attack Kurds.
Someday, the UN sanctions will end and Iraq will be able to rebuild its forces. It
will do so with newly acquired technology and with the lessons learned from the Gulf
War. Future military conflict with Iraq is a contingency U.S. policy makers cannot
To effectively achieve the goals of the nonproliferation regimes and maintain a
credible deterrent, the application of asymmetrical conventional force is necessary. In
the case of Iraq, additional measures must be taken. Deterrence theory works when it is
applied carefully and the adversary believes the threat is credible. The perception of a
credible threat is a value judgment by the adversary of the opponent's capabilities and
Threatening Iraq with economic sanctions does nothing to deter Saddam Hussein.
The economic sanctions are going on six years now and he still has not complied with the
demands of the UN Security Council. He feels nothing for his people. He is not a leader.
General Norman Schwarzkopf held a press conference on 27 February 1991. He was
asked by a reporter to give his impression of Saddam Hussein as a military strategist.
As far as Saddam Hussein being a great military strategist,
he is neither a strategist nor is he schooled in the
operational art, nor is he a tactician, nor is he a general, nor
is he a soldier. Other than that, he's a great military man. I
want you to know that. 100
The one thing he and his regime care about is their survival. Should Iraq threaten
regional instability with WMD, Saddam Hussein and the entire regime must be targeted
No matter how successful the various nonproliferation regimes are, there will be
gaps. One of the biggest obstacles facing the regimes is the concept of dual use. Many
countries seeking WMD use this ruse to obtain precursors. Similarly, countries acting as
proliferators are eager to realize the financial benefit of such sales.
Finally, nuclear weapons are not the proper choice to deter non-nuclear WMD.
Conventional asymmetrical force is more than sufficient to target and eliminate
100 Cited in Summers, A Critical Analysis of the Gulf War, p. 285.
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